The Priceless Gift of Time

On January 21, 2015, a dear friend, Julie Green, lost her 2.5 year battle with ALS. Within the 4-week span of December 19th (Frank’s birthday) and January 21st (Julie’s death), I lost 4 friends, each of progressively closer connection to me.

The first was a missionary that our church had supported for years. The next was a childhood neighbor. The third was pastor of a local church, whom I’d had the privelge of serving on a steering committee with years ago. And the last was Julie…

I saw her 2 days prior to her death. Even though she was tired, no longer able to eat, talk or move about on her own, her spirit was strong. She asked about my loved ones, my work, and more. She rejoiced in the good news that I shared and lamented the upcoming events she knew she was going to miss. But the entire time, with the exception of a single statement “I’m tired of the struggle…” Julie was filled with light, laughter and joy. Confined to a wheelchair, betrayed by a body no longer hers to will, she was content even in that moment.

At her funeral, a favorite quote of hers was shared. It was by Helen Keller.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.

It reminded me of a saying from Maya Angelou.

No one will remember what you said or did, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.

Julie had the gift of making every person she came in contact with feel special, loved and important. Nothing was more important than the moment you were in. Perhaps it was because she knew how few moments more she would have before she went home to be with her Lord and her Savior.

I believe that her illness enabled her to know him in a unique and extremely personal way. She learned the meaning of “dying to herself” long before most of us ever do. It became her mission to reflect God’s love, no matter what happened.

I remember spending one very long evening in the emergency room with her a little over a year ago. Stuck on a stretcher in the hallway, because there was no room for her, she greeted everyone with a self-deprecating smile and a wave. No problem. She was fine. She’d just wait right here…

How often do we look at our circumstances and think to ourselves “That’s SO unfair?!” Or wonder “why me?” Perhaps we’re even guilty of the thought “Couldn’t have happened to a nicer person” upon hearing of someone else’s calamity.

I can’t help but feel convicted… If I spent the past year of my life unable to talk, eat or swallow on my own, would I be remembered for my grace as Julie is? Or would I fall short somehow of that yardstick?

Julie learned the priceless value of time. Once spent, it’s gone. There’s no way to get it back…

As the disciples sat in the Upper Room, mourning their rabbi and Lord, were they thinking about the precious time they’d wasted? Or were they reflecting on how he had touched their lives, both collectively and individually?

How precious had that time become to them then, when they believed that they had lost him? And what joy they must have felt when he appeared to them again.

Did they follow him with a renewed spirit and commitment to cherish each moment they had with him? Or did they soon slip back into the mundane everyday routine, forgetting how much they had mourned just a short time before?

When tragedy strikes, we often wish that we had done things differently. At the end of our days, no one wishes they’d spent more time at work. They wish they’d held their loved ones just a little bit longer and a little bit tighter.

As we spend each moment of this day today, let us be in the moment, not the past, not the future, but this exact here and now. Love a little deeper. Cry a little longer. Laugh a little louder. Dance a little longer. The past is gone, and the future is uncertain. But today is a gift. That’s why it’s called “the present.”

About Tara

Tara R. Alemany is a best-selling author and speaker. Her books include “The Plan that Launched a Thousand Books,” “The Character-Based Leader,” “My Love to You Always,” “Celebrating 365 Days of Gratitude,” and her latest title “The Best is Yet to Come.”

In her spare time, Tara is a recognized thought leader who runs Aleweb Social Marketing, does her best to raise her two teenagers, and serves on two Boards of Directors. She is also Chaplain of her local Word Weavers chapter, and is a black belt in Tang Soo Do.

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