Life Can Change Quickly

by Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical on July 1, 2011

My Nana

This was a difficult post to write mainly because it forced me to confront a few personal demons.  But I think when we travel through the fire we emerge a changed and often better person.

There are events in our lives that have the ability to profoundly affect us, shape and mold us.  How that happens depends on how we react and respond to the event.  I was recently given some news that affected me in a deep way.  But before I explain I want to share a few past events that have forced me to examine my own life and to really think about what life really means.

If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything. ~ Win Borden

Admittedly I’ve never been one to push limits, to behave or act outside of societal norms.  I’ve never really been spontaneous, always planning out each facet of my life in excruciating detail, endlessly weighing the pros and cons of any situation.  It was a safe way to live because it allowed me to avoid the unknown.  But skirting the unknown is a sure fire way to live an unfulfilled and unsatisfying life.

In 2005 my grandma passed away at the age of 97.  When I think about my grandma I remember all the holiday cookies she always made.  They were so tasty and incredible and I was always in awe of them not to mention sneaking them every chance I had.  My favorite was white chocolate covered pretzel sticks.  As kids we always look up to our grandparents because they tend to spoil us and so they hold a special place in our heart.  My grandma was no exception.  After my grandma passed away I felt immense guilt because I hadn’t visited her much over the years despite her living in an assisted living facility just a mile away.  She suffered from macular degeneration, hearing loss and dementia which meant that when we did visit she often didn’t know who we were or what we were doing there.

My GrandmaI remember visiting her one Christmas with my wife and son, my Dad and my sisters.  My wife sang Christmas carols with her and everyone looked so happy.  I think back and realize how selfish I was; more concerned about how troublesome and emotionally draining visiting would be when it could have been something that made every bit of difference to my grandma.  I’ll never know now.  You can’t relive moments of your life.

I remember the day I lost my grandma on my mom’s side.  I got a call that she was in the hospital with an aneurysm near her heart and probably only had a day or two to live.  Because of her age and health they couldn’t operate.  “If you have anything to say to her you should call soon.”  I’ll give her a call in the morning I remember thinking, but the morning was too late.  She was already gone and there wasn’t a phone in the world that would be able to reach her.

Then just last year my grandma on my step-father’s side passed away after unexpectedly suffering a stroke.  We drove to southern California for the memorial service and I can remember thinking how short life really is.  We think we have plenty of time to do the things we want to do…one day.

Life can change in a split second.  And yet we delay and wait to tell family members that we love them.  We think there will always be plenty of time to do whatever it is we dream of doing.  We often learn too late that moments pass quickly and if we don’t jump we miss them for good.

This past weekend I learned that someone very close to me was diagnosed with cancer.  It was caught early and there is a very high probability that it can be cured with surgery and radiation but it still comes as a shock.  You see this person is young; they’re in the prime of their life.  But cancer has no aversion to age, race or creed.  But it can change your life in a split second.  Life can change in a split second.  And still we delay in doing the things we dream of doing.  We all believe that there is still plenty of time.

We’re all looking for answers, searching for truth and understanding.  We’re all looking for the cure to whatever disease we have be it a chronic illness, a cancer or an unhappy disillusioned life.  But we’re searching in the wrong places.  We’re searching outside of ourselves as if the world beyond our gaze contains all we need to know.  We’re looking to others for the answers, for acceptance for someone to tell us it’s OK.

No, the answers cannot be found looking outward.  The answers are found looking inward.  We hold the answers inside because the answer is unique to each of us.  Your answer will be different than mine.  Mine will be different from hers.  Hers will be different from his.

Dream as if you’ll live forever; live as if you’ll die tomorrow. ~ James Dean

We need to stop searching for answers beyond our reach.  Look inside.  Look deep inside.  What is it you really want to be doing?  Stop waiting for life to find you.  Go out and find it, make it and own it before it’s too late because at the end of the day we just have to accept and embrace the unknown on faith.

A friend of mine is participating in Athletes 4 Cancer | Kiteboarding for Cancer.  If you are able, let’s help him exceed his goal of $1000.  He’s almost there and it’s for a great cause.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Ali July 1, 2011 at 12:54 am

Wow this was quite a post. Reading about your loss of your grandparents & how most of us put off important things because we assume we’ll have time got me a little teary. So true & so sad. I hope your friend makes it through the cancer treatments with flying colors.

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical July 2, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Thanks Ali! They are doing amazing things in cancer treatment these days and thankfully this was caught really early. It has definitely reminded me that there is no time like the present. I think far too often we find ourselves either trapped in the past or too focused on the future and forget about living in the present.

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Kim July 1, 2011 at 12:54 am

Matt, that was a beautiful post and thank you for sharing it. It may have been tough to write but I assure you it will move everyone who reads it. I am praying for your loved one who was diagnosed. Thank you for the reminder that life is short. If we have a dream we need to live it now.

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical July 2, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Thank you so much Kim! Your prayers are welcomed. So glad to see you pursuing your dream.

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Joanna July 1, 2011 at 8:36 am

You are right…life can change so quickly. We live near a cemetery and walk our dog in it every day. I’m always struck by the tombstones of those who died young; I hear about his/her accident in the news and the next week they are at the cemetery. It reminds me how precious life is. I have friends fighting cancer too…their courage amazes me and the good news is one is in remission…hope all goes well with your friend and he is better soon.

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical July 2, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Thank you Joanna! I’ll be praying for your friends who are fighting cancer. Life really is precious and we need to view it that way on a daily basis. We are truly blessed for every second that we have.

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Gillian @OneGiantStep July 1, 2011 at 8:53 am

Matt, I am sorry for your friend. The love and support of friends and family at a time like this will mean much to them. It can be difficult to know what to say, or how to help, but just being there can mean a lot; you will find something to say and a way to help.

It serves as a reminder, again, that we should all stop waiting for ‘someday’ and find a way to live for today.

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical July 2, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Thanks Gillian! Thankfully this was caught very early so we are very hopeful for a good outcome from the treatment. It’s a good reminder that life doesn’t come with any guarantees.

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Karen July 17, 2011 at 7:32 pm

I’ve always enjoyed your writings but this particular post makes me very proud to be your mom. You had 3 grandmothers who were all unique in their own special ways and you did them proud with this post.

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical July 19, 2011 at 10:30 am

Thanks Mom! Lots of memories in there.

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Mack Reynolds July 21, 2011 at 10:33 am

this one def makes me think. and you’re right, the answer is within me. i feel like i’ve been too afraid to acknowledge it, or act on it. sometimes i feel like what i’m doing is just because it’s all i know.

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical July 22, 2011 at 12:46 am

Hey Mack! I feel the same way at times. We feel most comfortable doing the things we know and are familiar with but how can we grow if we don’t push the envelope? I saw this the other day: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” When I think about my own life I realize how true that is. It’s when we push ourselves beyond what we know that we grow. Here’s to us pushing beyond what we know. Cheers!

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