Readers write in about treasuring each second of life

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 7, 2011

Above my computer appears the following quote: “Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”

The words are from American author Ernest Hemingway’s 1952 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Old Man and the Sea.

They reflect a marlin fisherman’s resourcefulness while confronting adversity off the coast of Cuba. (You can read the passage on line at They parallel closely, I think, Jack Layton’s words of resourcefulness when confronting his own sailing adversity, as recounted at his recent funeral – words with which I concluded last week’s column: “make the best of what you’ve got now.”

That column was about embracing our mortality. In it I shared the wisdom of four people who stared down adversity and chose to make the best of the life they had.

Many of our readers spoke with me around town or sent me e-mails about the importance of that philosophy for their own lives. This week, I’ll touch on just a few of those responses.

From Morley, Stoney Nakoda elder Tina Fox wrote: “Thank you for this powerful edition of ‘Coffee With Warren.’ These are wise, powerful individuals who chose to make the best of what was dealt to them. Thank you.”

Surrey, B.C., reader Cheryl Eckstein, advocate for the vulnerable, anti-euthanasia activist, and founder/president of the Compassionate Healthcare Network, wrote:

“I have been chronically ill for many years now, and it can be very depressing not to be able to do things like I once was able. But like Jack says, you ‘take the oars and make the best of what you've got now.’ Wonderful words to live with.”

From Edmonton, Colleen Chapman, another of our physically challenged coffee companions, wrote that last week’s column really hit the mark:

“I suffered life-threatening complications from surgery and lost the use of my right arm,” she said. The serious musician and golfer could no longer play her instruments or join the senior’s tour. For a while, the constant pain made it impossible for her even to brush her teeth and hair.

Her chronic pain eventually became more manageable, she said, and she regained some use of her hand and arm. She was even able to feed herself once more with a fork without stabbing herself in the face and peel potatoes without slashing her wrists.

“The list of things for which I am grateful far exceeds the list I grieve. I can still hear music if I can't make it, and I still enjoy watching golf on a warm Sunday afternoon while snoozing on the sofa. I can walk, talk, type and still think. Life is very, very good. Thanks for the reminder.”

There’s an intriguing essay making its rounds on the Internet, author unknown, that follows quite nicely on Hemingway’s and Layton’s words about treasuring what we have. It was forwarded to me by Cochrane reader Daisy McKinnon. I’ll close with that essay.

The $86,400 Gift

Imagine that you had won the following prize in a contest: Each morning your bank would deposit $86,400.00 in your private account for your use. However, this prize has rules, just as any game does.

The first set of rules would be: Everything that you didn't spend during each day would be taken away from you. You may not simply transfer money into some other account. You may only spend it. Each morning upon awakening, the bank opens your account with another $86,400.00 for that day.

The second set of rules: The bank can end the game without warning. At any time it can say, “It's over,” the game is over! It can close the account and you will not receive a new one.

What would you personally do? You would buy anything and everything you wanted, right? Not only for yourself, but for all people you love, right? Even for people you don't know, because you couldn't possibly spend it all on yourself, right? You would try to spend every cent, and use it all, right?

Actually, the game is REALITY and the magical bank is TIME!

Each of us is in possession of such a magical bank.

Each morning we awaken to receive 86,400 seconds as a gift of life, and when we go to sleep at night, any remaining time is not credited to us. What we haven't used up that day is forever lost. Yesterday is forever gone. Each morning the account is refilled, but the bank can dissolve your account at any time – without warning.

So, what will you do with your 86,400 seconds? Aren't they worth so much more than the same amount in dollars? Think about that, and always think of this: Enjoy every second of your life, because time races by much more quickly than you think. So take care of yourself, be happy, love deeply and enjoy life!

Here's wishing you a wonderfully beautiful 86,400 seconds today!

PS HERE’S A BONUS for our Internet coffee companions: Cochrane reader Val Irvine, following up on last week’s account of the limbless Australian motivational speaker, Nick Vujicic, thought our other coffee companions would enjoy seeing a short film he stars in titled “The Butterfly Circus.” You can view it at – after the page loads, click on the butterfly. Length approximately 22 minutes. It’s well worth the time.

© 2011 Warren Harbeck

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