Yesterday, a few of us from work went out for burgers, fries and pie at a local drive-in. It was a beautiful day, so we elected to sit out in the sun and enjoy our
fatty, cholesterol-filled, probably genetically modified, wholesome American meal.
A few minutes later, we were joined by a lovely retired couple, Kirk and Sally, who were old friends of my co-workers. They just happened to be at the burger joint as well so we all ate together, chatting about all the lovely trips that they had made since retiring, telling stories, laughing and reminiscing. As I listened to their stories, I couldn’t help but think, “This is the life. To be retired, to be with someone you love, and to enjoy life, travel and eat. When I’m old, this is the life I want.”
Of all the trips they’ve made, they only spoke of one that didn’t happen – a trip to Panama. Kirk explained, “I was so excited to go and then Sally decides to get sick. (he rolls his eyes and laughs, Sally smiles) So there went that.”
He said it so flippantly, I didn’t imagine it could have been anything serious. I thought maybe she got some sort of stomach flu (I seem to always get it for some reason). I found out later on, after they left, that Sally has stage four lymphoma. This was the disease that ruined their plans for Panama. She was diagnosed shortly after she retired, and has been suffering through it for years. She hasn’t been given very long to live.
Sometimes, people wear their misfortunes like a neon sign so people can see it a mile away. I get like this sometimes. Maybe my bank account balance dips a little too low, or maybe my entrepreneurial plans aren’t quite going the way I would like. It could even be as simple as a running injury or a missing earring, and soon enough you’ll see me walking down the street wearing sack cloth and tearing my hair out.
But in the last couple of years, I’ve seen more death, illness, poverty and heartache in other people’s lives than I have in my entire life. I have also seen more strength, hope and victory in these last couple of years than I have in my entire life. It’s because there are people like Kirk and Sally who accept bad news as part of their life, but who refuse to let it become their life. They struggle through their pain, but they delight in their blessings. They take interest in other people, whether it be old friends or new ones like me. They go on trips far and wide, to exotic countries or local burger joints, and they sit out in the sun and enjoy their junk food (in reasonable amounts).
So now, as I think of them and pray for them, I still find myself hoping to one day have a life like theirs. I hope to one day be retired, be with the one I love, enjoy life, travel and eat. Yes, it’s unfortunate that Sally has cancer. Yes, it’s a shame that her time might be running out sooner than anyone would hope. But then again, all of our clocks are ticking. All of our days are numbered. What is the point of having a long life if you haven’t really lived it?
There really is so much that is good in life, always, in spite of everything that hurts and sucks. And since there is no other life but this, we might as well enjoy it. Sit out in the sun. Have a burger and fries. Laugh with the love of your life. And if you’re blessed with another day tomorrow, seize it. This is the life – the one we are living right here, right now.