I recently read Mitch Albom’s book For One More Day. I’m a big Mitch Albom fan. For all the sentimentality and sticky sweetness at times, the words he writes ring true for all human beings. The themes of his works touch the very nerve of humanity. Our fear of death, of our own death, keeps us from living as if each day could be our last. As a result, we often miss opportunities, precious opportunities, to tell those closest to us how much we love them. We miss opportunities to do well and to live to the best of our ability. We miss opportunities to make the most out of the absurdly short amount of time we are given in this life.
So, I was thinking about with whom I would want to be given the opportunity to spend one more day. I was thinking about things I would do and say. Some–well, most–of my answers were borne out of some sense of regret. Regret that I failed to say things to these people before they died. Regret that I failed to spend more time with these people before they died. In at least one case, regret that I chose not to spend more time with this person before she died because the process of her dying scared me to the core. Her name was Esther and she was my elderly neighbor when I was kid. I learned from her death, and became more acutely aware of the fragility of life. Ultimately, her death enabled me to be strong when my grandmother learned she was dying some 10 years later. Ultimately, Esther’s death allowed me to be there more fully for my grandmother. I thank Esther for that, though my guilt still runs deep that I could not have learned the lesson earlier.
People with whom I would spend one more day:
My grandmother: The person I miss the most in the world. I spent a lot of quality time with her when she was dying. Time I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Tuesdays were our day together. My grandfather had various errands to run on Tuesdays, so I would go over and sit with my grandmother. It was precious time, though not always easy. There were days she was sick, days she was tired, days she was scared. On these days, I sat in the chair next to her and held her hand. We spoke softly until she drifted off to sleep and then I’d just watch her. I’d watch as her chest rose and fell, as her eyes fluttered beneath their lids. I’d listen to the rhythm of her breathing, and I’d mutter silent prayers to God. I’d bargain with Him, praying that if He’d only let her live long enough to see my cousins graduate and to meet my unborn son I promised to do better, to be better. Whatever He wanted, I’d exclaim. And on the good days, the days she was feeling nearly human, we’d sit and talk endlessly about whatever was on her mind. We’d hold hands on these days, too. And I’d always lean over and kiss her forehead when there was a break in the conversation. While these were the darkest of days, I would choose to spend one more of these days with my grandmother. I’d want her feeling good, of course, but being with her during her final journey was the greatest gift for me. Truer words were never spoken than those spoken between us on those Tuesday afternoons. I embrace that time now; I miss it dearly. I miss her dearly. I would give anything for just one more day…
Tony: Tony taught me the game of cribbage. It’s a game I love to this day. I would spend one more day with Tony sitting at the kitchen table, a plate full of Esther’s zucchini in front of us, playing cribbage until our hands were too tired to hold the cards.
Esther: Tony and Esther raised me as much as anyone. I spent a lot of time at their house, listening to their stories. I would spend one more day with Tony and Esther at their house. I would eat Esther’s home-cooked meal, and we would listen to the music they taught me to love so much: Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Perry Como. We would watch Lawrence Welk…and The Love Boat, of course.
John and Mrs. A: My best friend’s parents. Some of my greatest childhood memories include John and Mrs. A. I spent a lot of time at their house. Their door was always open—literally—no matter the time of day or night. Someone was always up in that house, and we were always welcome to come walking in just to hang out. I would spend one more day with John and Mrs. A, dancing, playing cards, and watching Jerry Lewis movies. I would make it Labor Day. And we would flip pancakes onto the ceiling.
My dreams often allow me to fulfill my wish of spending one more day with the loved ones I’ve lost. As I slip from consciousness at night, they live on in my mind’s eye and I am with them again.
Love you, Gram. Miss you. (3/25/23 – 4/12/06)