I looked out the window this morning and the skyline hit me with a pleasant turbulence and snapped me out of a fog, reminded me to live and breathe and run and eat and sleep in moment after precious moment.
“Focus on living this moment,” something I once practiced daily and weekly and then became bored with and slacked on but began doing once again while on a recent vacation. I rarely went on vacation. When I did I’d travel and return and it’d feel like I’d only blinked, as if the break never happened. This time though, while in Mexico with my girlfriend I would tell myself “remember this scene,” or “enjoy this moment,” and “don’t forget the way this tastes.”
“Look at that sunset.”
We returned last Wednesday; in a Chicago minute, things changed.
“He is up to the task.”
My uncle’s home burned to the ground last Thursday while he was out of the country. Everything except the garage and cars (one in the garage, one in the driveway) was turned to ash. If the fire happened a week earlier or later, he and his dog would’ve been in it and likely wouldn’t have made it out. Fortunately nobody was hurt and no other homes suffered any damage beyond some charred patio furniture, lawns, but to lose all things accumulated over the course of a well-lived 72 years has to be crushing.
On the positive, his best friend moved next door a bit over a year ago which means a strong support system is within arms reach. He’d have and has a place to stay after returning home (a week ahead of schedule upon hearing the news from the other side of the world, no less). All part of life’s bigger plan?
I knew my uncle would be on his own when he returned; his friend and his wife were in PA for a family event. I made sure to be there ahead of his arrival in case he needed anything (support, clothes, food, etc.). When he arrived he walked through the mess on his own. I waited at the neighbors house. He returned. We ran a few errands, returned, had a scotch and a pizza and slept. The next morning I took him to breakfast.
After breakfast we took his car for a wash. All things considered, it looked pretty good coming out the other end! Only a few dings here and there from the debris and soot that had blown onto the roof and hood.
Incredibly, and without the element of surprise, things changed yet again.
As we drove away my uncle told me that he’d bumped into an old friend (news to me as I’d waited outside). This friend also had a recent traumatic experience to share. A mutual acquaintance of theirs suffered both broken hips and crushed legs after a car crashed into his while idling at a stoplight. The speeding car ran a red light and the intersection and crashed into another which created and introduced a tornado of steel to the front end of the acquaintance’s car. The force of the crash was so powerful that the steering wheel and car crushed him from the waist down, putting him in the hospital for four months, where he is today. Whether this acquaintance will walk again or not is up for grabs.
As he told the story, I could tell he (and I knew I) had really been reminded to appreciate the value of the moment. Life can and will change, without notice. It’ll happen overnight or over coffee or in a split second. Sometimes it’ll kick you in the teeth, and sometimes it’ll wash all of your worries away. It will change. Be ready for it. Have a backup plan. Move ahead. Keep moving forward; the past is a reminder of lessons learned.
Perspective. Our happiness, sadness, the good, the bad — whatever. It’s about a lot of things, but it’s very much about perspective. Everything can change in a minute.
It was a good feeling this morning, seeing the sky look that way.