Sunday, April 22, 2007

Make Every Second Count

Last week I lost a friend. She was a seasonal friend, one I saw at summer softball games or for an occasional dinner... we'd swap silly emails... you know, one of those friends who you know and really like but just don't find the time to hang out with more often...because you take for granted that they'll always be there and that sometime you'll get together again. Sometime soon...

Only soon rarely happens... because life is busy and friendship takes effort. Let's face it, unless you see someone every day because you work with them or see them at the gym or share lunch, you have to make the effort to schedule time with the people you don't often cross paths with. And all too often, we just don't make the time. Because we just feel like those people will always be there... that there will always be time...

Well folks, I'm here to tell you that our lives are fleeting. That one second, the people you know and love are here, and the next they could be gone forever. My friend was on her way to a spring vacation with her family... her parents, her partner and their 2 year old adopted son. And in a split second their worlds came to a screeching halt. She was 25, she was just beginning her life, and there is no sense in what happened. It's one of those situations where you can find only a shred of comfort thinking that perhaps God, if there really is one, needed her more than we did down here. Because she's not "in a better place now." And it wasn't "for the best" or "a relief and a blessing that she's no longer suffering." She wasn't "at least doing something she loved." She was in the wrong place at the wrong time and a careless driver made a mistake. It was sudden and violent and then it was over. There's just no way to wrap your head around it...

The funeral was Friday and my ex and I went together, I think to find some closure but even more to offer support to her partner, to be sure she knew we were still here even though we were on the periphery of their circle. It was a beautiful service, the church was packed and it was clear that her partner was treated and is loved every bit as much as if she had been Leslie's husband. There wasn't an ounce of homophobia. Les made a huge impact on her world in the short 25 years she was here. Always offering a bright bubbly smile and a positive outlook amid even the most grim situations. One person that spoke about her felt that the only explanation was that she was an angel, sent here for only a short time to bless our lives, and then welcomed home for some bigger purpose. I wish I could believe that. Somehow it makes things feel a little less random.

I've spent the past week thinking about Leslie and all the people she's left behind. And even though I still can't make much sense of it all, I have come away with a sense that we all could live more mindful lives. On this 70˚F Earth Day, it seems appropriate to write of mindfulness, when only 7 short days ago there was a blizzard raging where I now sit in shorts and a tshirt... global warming is real and it's up to us to start making changes...and that starts with being mindful of how we live our lives...

I want to be more mindful of all these little things... and also of things that seem so trivial but could be the one in a million decision that leads to the end... like buckling my seatbelt when only driving a mile to the store, like watching every car that passes me when I ride my bike and always assuming that they don't see me... complacency is dangerous. Like not messing with my iPod or talking on the phone while driving... lose the attitude that "it can't happen to me." It can. And it might. And the more times it doesn't, the more chance that it will... And it might not be me that is the victim of someone's carelessness. It might be me that causes someone else's pain. And that's even more frightening.

I will take that extra few seconds, minutes even, to be mindful. To just slow down long enough to consider the ramifications. We take for granted that we won't drive off a bridge...but every now and then it occurs to me that it's entirely in my power to turn the wheel and in an instant it would be over. Death doesn't feel all that far off when you look at it that way. We are so very fragile. Two hands on the wheel, 5-10 mph slower, easy does it. Small acts of mindfulness could just be the difference behind 50 more years... or 5 more seconds.

As triathletes, I'm venturing a guess that we take more risks than many people in our day to day lives. We ride in traffic on springtime-sandy roads, sometimes with no shoulder, sometimes with pavement cracks and potholes, sometimes on busy highways where 18 wheelers zoom by us. We swim - sometimes in open water, sometimes in unguarded pools, sometimes with 2000 other people trying to claw their way over us. We run at dusk or dawn, when it's dark, when folks aren't likely to be watching for us or are more likely to be drunk, on trails where there might not be anyone there to hear us yell for help... or where there could be mountain lions. We sometimes drive to a training session when we're half asleep... or concussed from a bike crash.

I will be more mindful. I will wear my road ID, I will dress in bright colors with reflective clothing and a headlamp, and wear my helmet, and swim with a buddy or where there is a lifeguard. Somedays, it's just more convenient to skip this stuff. We've all done it. Guys and gals... please don't. Please. Take the extra few seconds or minutes to just make sure you're being as safe and careful as possible. Find a new route to ride with less traffic. Get to work early so you can run at lunchtime instead of in the dark. Don't take the easy or lazy way out. Vigilance could save your life. Complacency or laziness could end it.

And whatever you do, call your family or your friends or anyone who you've been meaning to get in touch with. Tell them you love them. Do it today. Make sure when you leave in the morning, you kiss your kids goodbye and tell your partner you love him or her. Don't be in such a rush that you forget to be mindful. Because we're here on borrowed time, kids. And it could all end in the blink of an eye. Make the most of every second you have.

I remember the last time I saw Leslie. It was at a store or a restaurant and I saw her thru the glass door... she was holding her son and talking to someone else and didn't see me. And even though I hadn't seen her in awhile, I didn't go back in to say hello because she was engaged in conversation and I didn't want to interrupt or I was in a hurry or something... Somehow it would have made all the difference to know that the next time I'd see her would be at her funeral. Take the time. Connect with the people you care about. Make sure you're doing all you can to be safe and keep those around you safe.

Be mindful and love well. Life is a wonderful gift.


Blogger MartyTheFool said...

Hey Spence,

All good reminders, from a sad story. Sorry for the loss of your friend. Yes, there is no reason, it's not a 'better place'. We use that to comfort each other, but it rings hollow somehow.


5:38 PM GMT-5

Blogger Wylee said...

She just gave you a wonderful gift, didn't she? The gift of mindfulness. Treasure it.

8:33 AM GMT-5

Blogger Phoenix said...

My deepest condolences on the loss of your friend. Thank you for inspiring me to reach out to those "peripheral" people in my life, we do wrongly allow ourselves to believe that there's plenty of time. If her legacy is mindfulness - in you, her loved ones, and the people you reach through your blog, I'd say that's a good message to leave behind. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

3:47 PM GMT-5

Blogger momo said...

spence, i am so very sorry for the loss of your friend. i know first hand the pain that accompanies such a senseless tragedy, and i hope and pray each day that there is a purpose, a reason, for the loss. life is short and you're right, we take it for granted sometimes, well oftentimes.

by sharing with us, you're allowing leslie's legacy to live on and to bless all of us, and i, for one, am grateful.


5:10 PM GMT-5

Blogger Cliff said...


My condolences to hearing your friend passing away. Thanks for the reminder to put safety in priority when we train and show the ppl we loev that we love htem.

6:19 PM GMT-5

Blogger Triteacher said...

Oh my. Sorry Spence. Thank you for the beautifully-written reminder.

8:03 PM GMT-5


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