Close Connections: Forgiven for taking life for granted

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By Nancy Norman

I was waiting for my friend Sue at a restaurant recently. Another friend of mine, Tony, worked there. I saw him and we exchanged our usual “Hi, how are you?” greetings. He said he was fine. I watched him talking and laughing as he served other tables til my lunch mate arrived.

When Sue and I left, we noticed a group of employees gathered around the darkened kitchen door. It looked as if someone had fallen. In the parking lot, a fire engine roared up. Sue and I wondered what happened, but then went on our own ways.

A few days later, I received an email that Tony died—the Tony at the restaurant. The Tony I talked to. The one who was laughing with customers, saying he was fine. He was his lively, friendly self.

It struck me with Tony’s death how much and how often I take life for granted. I try to remember that we’re all mortal, that accidents and illnesses happen, that any of us can die any time. But I still take for granted that I’ll see or talk to my friends…the next time.

I guess we can’t really focus on the fact that the person we’re talking to can be dead the next moment. How could we stand it? We think of people in our lives and say to ourselves, “I really should call her” or, “I haven’t answered his email from last week.” But we’re busy with so many other things. We don’t make the call, and the email slides further down the mail box.

What if we part from a loved one with angry words? Or leave without a word because our feelings flare? How can we remember that Life makes no promises about the next moment? There’s a saying, “Don’t let the sun set on your anger.” But we forget in the midst of our emotions that this may be our last encounter with the person in front of us.

Years ago a friend told me a story, his tears flowing without caution. His family was on vacation. His 13-year-old son wasn’t having fun, was complaining of a headache. My friend got frustrated with his son’s lack of enthusiasm and yelled at him about how he was acting. Several hours later, his son died of meningitis.

One thing is clear to me. It takes a lot of forgiveness to keep living. We can do our best, but often times we don’t. We can’t keep everything that’s important at the forefront of our mind. So we have to be able to forgive ourselves for forgetting, for being selfish, for being distracted.

So, I have refrigerator notes. Held up by magnets, I see the important things of life: the pictures of those I love, the quotes I want to live by. I treasure the reminders. I also see the quote about forgiving ourselves from writer Lewis Smedes which reads, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.”

Nancy Norman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, musician with The Storys musical duo and former “Intimacy” columnist for The Wichita Eagle. Email her at nancy@pikespeakpublishing.com.

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