After people we love die, there are certain times of the day when we feel the absence of their presence most keenly. These are moments frozen in time, and even if they happened a decade ago, they can feel as if they happened yesterday. Maybe it’s 5 p.m., the time when they would start cooking dinner. Perhaps it was something we would do together on Sunday mornings, like walk to the bakery for bear claws. Maybe it was watching a favorite television show every Thursday night.
This was one of those moments, from early in my grief.
In the light of early morning, as the young rays of the sun filter in through the blinds, I used to wake and look over at Evelyn. When I saw her breathe, I relaxed because I knew that we had another day together. When she awoke, she’d turn over, smile, and our day would begin with love.
This morning I look over, a year after she’s been dead, at the empty place where she once slept, and realize how long before she died that I checked every morning to see if she was still alive. It was a tender fear, and there was no reason for it. She had a few aches that would not go away, but she was only in her 40s, and we had no thoughts that they were life-threatening. And they weren’t.
Sometimes she would get up in the middle of the night unable to sleep and go downtown and shop for groceries. Or she’d watch television until she became drowsy. If I noticed that she wasn’t there, I’d go into the living room and guide her back to bed.
The morning of her death, after she woke me at 5 a.m. to go to work, she went back to sleep. When she got up several hours later, she apparently felt dizzy and either lay down or collapsed on the floor. When she was able, she phoned a friend to take her to our doctor’s office. There, out of the blue, she had a heart attack, and I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye.
Now, whenever I feel a moment has something special, something out of the ordinary going on—a crispness to the air, the unexpected friendliness of a stranger, a discussion that deepens into the sharing of hearts—I try to linger in it. These moments are what make life worth living, and make us smile every time we think of them after they’re over. We would stay in these moments, if we could. Yet even if we are aware of them when they’re happening, they still slip away and out of our grasp.
Life is not about arriving at a destination. It’s about creating special moments that transcend the ordinary.
We don’t know how many moments like this we will have with other people. Don’t wait. Put yourself out there see what happens. Be like Zorba.