A little over a year ago, I received some incredibly disturbing news about an acquaintance of mine who had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. At the time, the prognosis was not good. Though we didn’t really run in the same circles, we shared a common interest in sports, and more specifically, University of Texas football. Through the years, I would see him quite often at the stadium in Austin and even at road games that are attended by only the most fanatical of Texas-exes. Upon seeing him at these events, we would discuss the team’s strengths and weaknesses, praise or badmouth the coaching decisions, suggest a game plan like all good armchair quarterbacks do, and even bicker over the point spread. (He was always more knowledgeable about the latter than I was.)
At the time I heard this tragic news, I promised myself that I would give this guy a call and visit him at some point in the near future. Perhaps we could take in a ballgame if he was feeling up to it, or maybe just watch one on television. At the very least, I would drop off some sports related periodicals for him to read. Though I truly did not know him very well, I felt certain that such actions on my part would help cheer him up, and perhaps take his mind off of his illness, if only for a brief time.
Well the days, weeks, and months flew by, and unfortunately I rarely gave him a passing thought as I proceeded with my rather busy daily schedule. During the past year, I continued to build my business, adding new clients, and composing articles, speeches, and business plans (as well as my company newsletters filled with insightful information). I took trips to New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Washington DC for both work and play. I went to Austin on numerous occasions for ballgames, and even traveled to Los Angeles to watch our beloved Horns. I saw many movies, watched countless episodes of Seinfeld, and truly treasured those Sunday afternoon naps in front of the TV. Occasionally, I would run into one of his friends and inquire about his health. Some reports were more negative than others. After each one, however, I would again vow to give him a call when I found the time. If only, I had found the time.
A few weeks ago, I received word that he had passed away. The cancer had taken over his body; the pain had become intolerable toward the end. He was 32. At the funeral, three of his dear friends rose to relay stories about his life. They spoke of his sense of humor and biting sarcasm; they spoke of his love of sports and his desire to watch the “big game” up until he could no longer watch; they spoke of the courage he displayed during his illness, never complaining, always trying to cheer up his friends and acquaintances during their visits. The family thanked everyone who had come by and prayed for him during his illness.
In the days that followed, I found myself deeply overcome with various emotions. Certainly, such feelings are normal in light of the passing of someone so young, someone full of so much promise. I was especially upset with myself for not finding the time to call and visit during the past year. Initially, I had the arrogance to believe that I could have somehow made his life more bearable, that my visit would have helped ease the pain that he was feeling. But listening to his friends speak that day, I realized that I was the one who would have benefited from such experiences. I could have learned from him about the importance of maintaining a positive attitude, cherishing friends and family, and not procrastinating and wasting precious time. We all could have learned such valuable lessons. In fact, we still can.
I am certainly not the best person to lecture others about the drawbacks of procrastination. Each year, I make that same New Years Resolution not to waste time, not to “put off for tomorrow, what can be accomplished today.” And yet, that resolution quickly gets broken as soon as a good show comes on television, even one that I have seen numerous times already. Instead, we should make every effort to place that long delayed phone call, drop by for that unplanned visit, finish that project around the house or office, buy that gift for your spouse, play that game with your child. I am not naïve enough to think that I will never again procrastinate. In fact, I’m sure there are things I have put off over the past few days, with the intent of doing them tomorrow or the day after. Unfortunately, the lessons of the past few weeks have shown me that sometimes tomorrow never comes. The consequences of such inactions are often not realized until it is too late.
SEIZE THE DAY
“Carpe Diem” was the inspiring theme of one of my favorite movies. We should all learn to “seize the day” and live every moment to its fullest. Unfortunately, we tend to get bogged down in our everyday hectic schedules. We spend all of our time at work and forget that we also need some time to play. We focus only on projects themselves and fail to offer a kind word of praise to those who assist us in our endeavors. We take for granted all of the positives that life has to offer and focus instead on the negatives. We think that our problems are more significant than anyone else’s and get irritated when we don’t receive what we perceive to be appropriate sympathy. We make mountains out of molehills and take out our frustrations on those least deserving, like friends and family members.
Again, tomorrow I’m sure I will complain about something incredibly insignificant. I will pass on an opportunity to do something productive and instead watch TV or take a nap. I will have the chance to relay a kind word to someone, but will choose to keep my mouth shut instead. Hopefully, when such situations arise, I will remember the lessons of the past few weeks, and realize how I could have benefited from one more conversation with this ailing individual; another chance to discuss our team’s strengths and weaknesses, praise or badmouth the coaching decisions, suggest a game plan, and even bicker over the point spread. Had I just made a phone call or paid that visit instead of waiting until tomorrow. Unfortunately, tomorrows don’t always come.