Only Now

I feel like the universe has been trying to send me a message. There are many ways to express that message: carpe diem, life is short, seize the moment, there is only today, tomorrow may never come, there is only now, just do it, impermanence, the only constant is change…

The unexpected stroke of a dear friend is on my mind. I was in Washington DC last week when I got the news. My flight had just landed when an email from her assistant popped up on my Blackberry. I remember sitting there on the plane, while others debarked, just crying. Two strokes, one hemorrhagic, fever, endocarditis, these do not combine for a good prognosis. I always think there is more time. Did she know how much she mattered to me, to the others she touched in her life? I cried for the potential loss to the universe of someone as special as she was. I hope that she will recover and yet I already feel the pain of the loss of her.

She was both mentor and friend to me. I have been truly blessed to have gotten to know her well over the past year.  I saw her as often as her schedule allowed, but it’s hard to get on the schedule of someone who works 12 hour days, 6 days a week. Luckily it was pretty easy to coerce her to leave the office on Sundays to grab a coffee and some conversation, at least every few weeks. I love her wonderful combination of warmth, experience, optimism, and pragmatism. She is still in the ICU with her prognosis uncertain. I don’t know if she will wake up from this.

While she is foremost in my mind, I see this message everywhere: My grandparents Alzheimer’s disease, the end stage renal failure of my uncle, my divorces, my mother planning to live on her own for the first time ever, and the fatal diseases that unexpectedly strike the loved ones of dear friends and colleagues.

I have a tendency to be focused on tomorrow: next week, next month, next year, next decade. I love to plan and build toward the future. It is very easy for me to be like my friend working long hours with no vacation, always thinking of the future and not today.

I was surprised by the depth of my grief and the tears I have already shed over the potential loss of my friend. I did not have many tears for my divorce, which worried me. I shared this and my underlying concern with a good friend.  My friend sent me the following philosophy that I am now sharing here:

…tears that one sheds for the unspeakable tragedies that befall any of us as humans, are the only ones worth shedding…not self pity or lamenting mistakes we may have made along our individual journeys…the true tragedy of life is that it can be taken from us at any time and that we may have not lived what time we had to our fullest…filled with passion for all things we love. 

I am blessed with some amazingly great and wise friends. There is only now.