I was reminded twice this week of the fragile nature of this life.
The first time was this past Thursday night during the Winter Sports Awards at the high school. Our daughter was being recognized along with her team for her participation in Nordic skiing.
The auditorium is full of parents, cameras-at-the-ready to celebrate their children’s success on the playing field. Coaches from each team stand on the stage to share the highlights of the season, then invite each student to come up to receive their hard-earned rewards.
The father of one of our son’s friends is currently battling a particularly nasty bout with cancer. We used to see him and his wife at every band performance and every track meet. He and my husband worked together at every home track meet at the long jump pit.
Last summer, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, which after several rounds of grueling treatment and one monstrously long surgery, is still ravaging his body.
We were pleasantly surprised to see him and his wife enter the auditorium before the start of the ceremony and make their way to sit in front of us.
I smiled and warmly greeted him but when he turned back to say hello to some other parents, the lump in my throat was huge and I had to fight back tears.
He looked so pale and so thin. His slight smile did not reach his haunted eyes but he seemed so happy to be out and about. I knew from past conversations with his wife that he had not been able to leave the house in weeks.
I glanced around at the other parents.. Some were alone, some were with their spouses. Some looked tired. Some checked their phones. Others chatted quietly.
How many people, I wondered, were aware of the treasure of this moment? This moment of being healthy enough to be here in this place, celebrating the accomplishments of their children?
How many saw this opportunity, this moment, as gift?
Two days later, I saw his wife at a local university where our kids were playing at the school’s annual jazz festival. Her husband had still not recovered from attending the awards, which had only lasted ninety minutes.
Imagine that. Driving one mile to the school, sitting in the audience during the ceremony and driving that mile back home wiped him out for days. I never even gave it a second thought. I grabbed my camera, climbed into the car with my mom and my husband and went. I snapped photos, chatted with other parents, laughed at the funny stories the coaches shared, then went home and did a million other things before I went to bed that night.
I, who write so often about treasuring time, let the moments pass by in a blur.
How easy it is to forget.
As we chatted, the mother of a girl in my daughter’s grade came down the hallway of the university cafeteria where the band members and the rest of the parents were gathering before our school’s performance.
It was one year ago at this very event that I had first met this woman. She possessed an effervescent personality, a bright and ready smile, and such a fabulous head of long blonde hair that I had a serious case of hair envy.
This day, however, all that glorious hair was gone. In its place was a black bandana dotted with clear crystals that sparkled and shone under the florescent lights.
Breast cancer had invaded her life a couple of months ago. It may have taken her hair but not her spirit.
She greeted us with a smile. Her eyes shone with courage and steel as she answered my question about how she was feeling. She was brutally honest about the toll her treatment is taking on her slender frame and sometimes fragile emotions. But she is a fighter. A warrior. An inspiration.
When the time came for our kids to play, we moved into the performance hall. I took a seat in the back so I could easily take pictures of the band. As the kids set up, I watched those two moms whose lives have been touched by the monster that is cancer sit next to each other, heads together, locked in an intense discussion.
Then I looked at my husband, sitting a few rows in front of me and at our kids. Josh played a few warm up notes on his saxophone and Julia shared a laugh with the girl beside her, her flute lying across her lap.
And I prayed, “Lord, thank You for the gift of life. For the gift of health. For the gift of now. Please don’t let me take those things for granted. Give me eyes to see anew how precious each and every day is.”
The sound of music began to fill the air. The kids played joyously, fully, beautifully.
I snapped shot after shot, capturing moments, capturing the energy and hope and shining promise of our talented young people.
With each click of the shutter, I breathed a prayer of thanks to my very good God.
The Inventor of Music.
The Personification of Joy.
The Healer of disease.
The Restorer of broken hearts.
The Giver of all good gifts.
The Worker of miracles.
The gifted and brilliant Author of all our stories.
The Rescuer from our sin.
The Glorious One whose empty grave shouts triumphantly that hideous things like cancer do not get the final say.
We left the university after the festival and I treasured the sound of the loud and frequent laughter of the five teenagers in our SUV.
It was like a sweet symphony all its own.
“Love the moment. Flowers grow out of dark moments. Therefore each moment is vital. It affects the whole. Life is a succession of such moments and to live each, is to succeed.”—Corita Kent