Life is short.
I remember once, years ago, my grandma passed away. I probably wasn't more than six or so at the time. My family learned that she was in the hospital, and we drove all night to Rexburg, Idaho to see her. I can only imagine what must have been going thru my fathers head. He must have known this was his last chance, the last time he would be able to hold his mothers hand and tell her he loved her. How horrifying must it have been to drive all that way, thinking, unable to do anything at all but continue driving, thinking, the road stretching forever in front of him, thinking, thinking, the sickening fear that he may already be too late sitting in the pit of his stomach like a lump of rock. When we arrived at the hospital I stayed in the car with my aunt and uncle, and when my dad came back out, tears streaming down his cheeks, they embraced him and told them they were sorry. I was confused. I asked him what was wrong. He said, 'Life is so damn short.'
Of course, at the time I couldn't understand his meaning. I was six. My life was short, but not his. He must be like 12, at least. The only thing I had ever heard in my life when I wanted to do something was 'You're not old enough.' To judge by my extensive experience, life took too goddam long. At this rate it would be hundreds of years before I drove a car or anything cool and fun like that. Was my father stupid?
He was not. In fact, he was attempting to impart in me the most important lesson I was ever going to learn. It didn't sink in until a few years later, when his own life was cut short. That night we drove to the hospital for grandma, he had been fortunate enough arrive in time to speak with her one more time, to hear her final words. I was not so lucky. A single, final heartbeat ensured I would never speak with my dad again. I would not laugh with him, argue with him, tell him my problems or share my excitement. He would never hear my music or see my potential, I would never think on his wisdom and come to respect him for the man he was. Over the years, I would need many things from him.
Instead I would have stone and silence.
How often do we pass on the opportunity to say something to someone, not knowing if we will get another chance? At the time, there are myriad reasons to keep words to ourselves; Nows not the time, I'll just do it later, they don't want to hear it, I'm afraid of how they will react, nobody will care what I have to say, it will just come out wrong. They all seem like good enough reasons. But the reality, as I've come to understand it, is that our lives can be swept away in the blink of an eye. It is no different than a candle flame guttering out in the wind, a snowflake dissolving onto your palm or a shooting star vanishing in the endless sky. We cannot hope to live longer, only fuller.
Because, cruelly, life is short.