Make time for each other while still this side of grave

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, June 26, 2014

These cotoneaster leaves, from vernal birth to autumnal death, recall the ancient wisdom about “a time to be born, and a time to die.” They serve as a reminder not to procrastinate in carrying out our good intentions toward each other while time is on our side.
Photos by Warren Harbeck

In last week’s column, authenticity guru David Irvine shared how his physician-brother Hal’s terminal illness has led the two professionally preoccupied men to rebuild their personal relationship together after putting it on hold for far too long.

David highlighted several important lessons he’s learning along the way: “Embrace the realization of life’s impermanence. Take time to connect. Don’t procrastinate.”

Cochrane coffee companion Bill Porochnuk certainly didn’t waste any time agreeing with David. The retired consultant phoned me to say:

“David’s advice about not procrastinating sure hit home. For years I procrastinated doing things. At the tail end, I decided enough of this, and I left my regular job and went off shore, because I said, ‘time to move it, time to have a look at it.’ The best years that my late wife Alice and I had – we did it now. So that column really hit home, and I’m going to make sure my kids get to read this. Don’t put it off; you don’t know what tomorrow has, that’s for sure.”

Bill recalls a saying he encountered as a youth on his classroom wall: “Carpe Diem, ‘seize the day.’” For him, this was the alternative to the all-too-human tendency to think that there’s always a few more days. “But we don’t know that,” he said.

When I shared Bill’s comments with my wife, Mary Anna recalled a similar story about her late paternal grandparents:

“My widowed granddad used to tell me how glad he was that he and Grandma took early retirement in their 50’s when she was still alive. They had saved some money and decided to go to Florida, where the two of them enjoyed the balmy winter and my artistic Grandma made jewelry with colourful sea shells. But, after a while, their savings ran out and they returned to New York State where, once again, Granddad took up his old job, to the ridicule of many.

“But when Grandma suddenly died from a brain aneurysm at the age of 60, Granddad was so thankful that they hadn’t waited for his 65th birthday. By then she was gone and they would never have had that wonderful time together.”

Writer/editor David Forbes, formerly of Cochrane, emailed me to describe how “unfortunate circumstances sometimes pull family members together like never before.” He said:

“Eleven years ago I spent three weeks in Vancouver attending to my father’s needs after he had suffered three heart attacks in one day. He survived his heart surgery. While at the hospital I got to take him onto a rooftop garden, above the hustle and bustle of the busy city below.

“With his face pale and his wispy white hair blowing in the wind, he sat in a wheelchair, wrapped in hospital blankets, his hands motioning as if in conversation with some unseen being. When I asked him what it was like during his recovery, he said it was as if he was climbing Ben Vorlich.  The Scottish mountain lies just a few miles from the village where he was born.

“I am glad I went to Vancouver to be with him, and then again to Kelowna 10 months later for his final few days. Although David and Hal may have followed their own journeys for many years, when it was time to be there David stepped up to the plate. No matter what causes estrangement, it is beautiful when both parties humble themselves and mend hurt feelings. Truly the Balm of Gilead at work.”

Thanks, all of you, for your encouragement not to procrastinate in affirming our love for each other in the face of life’s impermanence. Your stories bring to mind the wise words of Ecclesiastes: “There’s a time to be born, and a time to die.” Let’s make time for each other while we’re still on this side of the grave.


© 2014 Warren Harbeck

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