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Call or Visit your loved one now! Tomorrow may be too late!
Every day, our "in" boxes are filled with things that require our attention; things we must do. Paying the bills, going to work, washing the dishes, etc. are some things must be done today. Other things are great ideas to work on, but they can wait a day or two or a week or much longer, such as painting the bathroom or organizing the clutter in the basement, or dare I say starting that next article. Then there are things on that list that, if we don't do them, the world will still exist in it's present form, but if we choose to do them will make a great difference in a life or many lives.
In the past 18 months, I can think of at least four examples in my life which were on that latter list. I regret not getting around to two of those things, and it is too late now to do so, but doing two other things encouraged me to possibly change the way I prioritize my "to do" list. I wonder why I waited so long to get around to doing them.
The first example was a road trip I took by myself. The purpose of this trip was to visit three important people in my life and keep promises made to them and to myself. So, while this was a nice time away from work, I had important things to do in the 3,000+ miles that lay ahead.
On the second day of my journey, about 7:30 the following morning, I left where I had stayed the night before in Indianapolis, continued into Illinois, making one or two short stops before I got to O'Fallon, about 20 miles east of St. Louis, Mo. I had called my former boss about a week earlier to make sure he would be around and we agreed to meet late that morning. When I arrived, he was in a meeting, so I walked around, talked with some people who work for him now, and about 45 minutes later I met him. Ten plus years had passed since we last saw each other, but in a way it seemed like just a few days. We had a lot to talk about; people we both knew, family, the company. We tried to call the store we came from, but we could not get through to the person we hoped to reach. We are both with the same company, but neither of us were at the location where we worked together. I am about 300 miles away and he is about 900 miles away. He is with the same division and I am in a different division. Still, we have a lot in common and a friendship that is alive and well after ten years of being dormant.
Meeting him for just the one hour was one of those rare times. When he transferred, I told him if I was ever in the area, I would try to see him. Ten years, many miles, and a few phone calls and e-mails later, I kept this promise. So often such promises are made and for whatever reason, we are unable to keep them. Perhaps we don't think we have the time or money or think it is too much effort, but eventually, unfulfilled promises turn into regrets and we are NEVER able to fulfill them.
While it was great meeting him, he had to get back to work and I had a few hundred miles to go to reach where I was staying that night. (Branson, MO)
The drive to Branson was through torrential rains and flooded roads. It took much longer than I expected and took a lot out of me. The weather scared everyone away and the place was cold and rather lonely. It was damp and windy and the song playing over the music system was Time in a Bottle which doesn't really put me in a happy mood. Tired and lonely, I wondered why I had driven all that way for that experience.
The reward for my effort would come the next morning. After breakfast, I left for Mountain View, Arkansas, about 110 miles (2 ½ hours) to the southeast. I had never been in Arkansas before, so adding that to my list was rewarding. I enjoyed the scenery, especially the mountain roads once I left the U.S. highway.
I met the man at the agreed upon location. It was an emotional few moments for me because my father had been dead for ten years and to see someone who had been so close to him was just like being with my father. It was emotional for this man, because he was meeting the youngest son of the man he spent so much of his time with during World War II.
These two men met on the boat going over to Europe to fight during World War II. They paired up to share quarters on ship and they stayed together just about every moment of their wartime experience, the highlight of which was the Battle of the Bulge. The experiences of the war really touched my father as he basically never really mentally left the war, and in a symbolic way, he fought an emotional war until the day he died more than 50 years after combat ended. I never fully understood certain things about my father until I met this man. My father would give me the details of where they went and what they did and the glamour of it, but he would never say how it touched him. Before and during our meeting, this man gave me details about the shooting and the bombs and told me about how my father took his place on guard duty one night.
After the war, he and my father went their separate ways and lived their own lives until one day the man was able to track down my father. He re-established contact and kept in touch regularly via phone and letters for several years. When I was younger, I remember answering the phone and it would be this man asking for my father. I was not used to the commanding voice of this southern gentleman, but I would get my father and afterwards my father would be in a much better mood. Even after my father died, this man still called. He has kept in touch with my mother regularly ever since and this year I was determined to thank this man in person for his service to our country and his friendship with my father and now my mother.
This man said so many good things about my father and answered so many questions I had. Our meeting was more than just watching a documentary on the Battle of the Bulge and eating fried catfish and chicken. He shared with me personal details about his own life then and now.
To his disappointment I only stayed about six hours before I returned to Branson and then Virginia, but if I had to drive straight through just to see him and turn around again, it would have been worth it, to meet and thank this veteran before he becomes a casualty of the war of time.
FInally, at the end of the trip, I made it a point to thank my mother. A few days after I returned to Virginia, I went back to New Jersey to pick up the cat and visit Mom, tell her about my trip and the man, and to try to celebrate her life in a small way. It was her birthday, so I ended my trip by treating her to a birthday supper. It was a long trip, but at the end of the road, I have no regrets.
Another thing I have no regrets about was having the courage to do things that my heart is moved to do. I have always enjoyed writing and last year finally had the opportunity to publish something on the internet. While I haven't been able to give up my job in retail, at least I have been able to touch a few people's lives and make a few (emphasis on few!) dollars while doing something I truly enjoy. I also don't regret making the first move in establishing friendships over the course of my lifetime or calling someone when they were having a rough time or offering to help someone if they appear to be in need, even if they politely refuse my offer.
Unfortunately, those things I don't regret are not the whole story, for there are things I do regret that I can never recover. I regret the times I could have been a good friend to someone, but ignored the opportunities. I regret losing touch with many good friends.
I was reminded of this while I was planning a trip to Southern California. When I was nine years old, I recall that my father was out there and part of my family went with him. One of the things we did was to visit a friend of his from his childhood. My father spoke well of this man and we spent some time at his place in Pasadena. I have fond memories of the day I was able to spend with two of his daughters who were around my age. I had a great time with them while my parents and older brother went to The Tonight Show.
I'm sorry I never kept in touch with his family or with him. Our lives were connected in a very unique way. My father was about this man's age, grew up in the same town and apparently they kept in touch from time to time.
Early last year I was able to meet a man who served in WWII with my father. I'm sorry I missed the opportunity with this man.
Another reminder of why we should not procrastinate on certain things hit home for me about two months ago. My aunt was a dear part of our family and hadn't been able to get around much for the past few years. She is the key ingredient in a lot of wonderful holiday and family memories that seem like yesterday or even today in some ways. Many opportunities came and went and while I was only a little over 3 hours drive from her, I did not make the trip out to visit her. Some have said that it was good that I did keep in touch with her even if I did not visit her, and they reminded me that I have memories of her as being happy and jolly and not sad a crippled with pain. Yes, they are correct, I believe, but I will still carry to my grave a handful of regrets and pray for understanding and forgiveness for those sins of omission.
I have learned from these life experiences, and the older I get, the more I think of the commercial that says "just do it." It seems if I do some things now, I will feel better about myself. Show your love for people while you can. People need it and you may not always be able to do it. That is something you should never have to regret.