Dear Miranda, My friend has six months to live.

This is my friend Richard. He loves homegrown tomatoes, so I bring him some every now and then when I can snatch them from my parents garden. He sent me this picture to show me how much he is enjoying a tomato I gave him. He looks a little like Wario in this picture which makes me laugh.

 
Richard went to the Dr. again last Tuesday and they found that his ability to breathe was down 30% from the last time he was there. His Dr. informed him that he estimates he will live about 6 months.
 
Six Months.
 
Of course I was really upset but I am trying to remain positive. Sometimes there estimates are really wrong. And even if he is right, Richard is not gone yet, so I need to cherish the time that we have left.
 
I meet him for coffee. I share homegrown produce incase this is his last summer to have it. And we talk. Last time we talked about being present and living in the now instead of wasting time in the past or worrying about the unpredictable future. We talked about trying to be more human. We talked about Zen.
 
And we talked about having only a short time left to live. I realized that if I only had six months left to live, I would want to spend as much time as I could interacting with friends and family. I would make more time for coffee, e-mails, and phone calls. I would find time for game night, because laughter is the most intense therapy I can think of for mental anguish.
 
I would stop freaking out about ALL the dumb small shit that seriously matters none. I would probably volunteer somewhere. I might go camping… or maybe I would just camp out in the living room with Emily but there would defiantly be smores involved.
 
I think if I had a deadline on my life I would feel a lot more “alive” each morning when I woke, and be a lot more appreciative for the blessings I’ve been given then I did before.
 
And  though I haven’t been given a diagnosis like Richard, things like this serve as a very real reminder that life is precious and fleeting and that death doesn’t seem real until its upon you. Many people never even see it coming. So I’m aiming to get my shit together. Not in the “I need to get more organized… I need to make more money… I need to be better about folding the laundry so it doesn’t get wrinkly…” way. In the “Is today my day and if so am I doing what I need to. Am I happy with how I spent my time. Do I need to do anything else today to set it on the path it should be on,” way.

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Dear Miranda, Sometimes life can be painfully ironic.

In 2005 I worked at Starbucks. It was one of the best jobs I have ever had. I loved the people I worked with and I loved my regulars. I looked forward to going to work everyday. I loved being a barista and my favorite part of all was when we went on break or when we got off work (or got there a little early) we would hang out with each other and the people who regularly spent lots of time there.

There were several of us that it seemed like spent 95% of all our free time together. We were such a motley crew… made up of all ages, religions, and backgrounds. The group was Debbie, Eric, Grant, Chiblis, Richard, and I. There were others who floated in and out of our group, like Debbie’s daughters, Eric’s dad, a paramedic who’s name I cant remember, but this core group… we were close. We were family.

Time has changed a lot. Eric died my senior year. It was devastating. I still miss him and think about him all the time. I vaguely keep up with Grant on facebook, but somehow after Eric died it just wasn’t the same. It was hard for us to hang out or at least it was hard for me to hang out with him. Chiblis moved to California, which suits him. Debbie is the woman who moved to Alaska with her children who I e-mailed the other day. And then there is Richard.

Richard and I have always had a special bond. He is older than my parents, in his late sixties probably, but you can talk to him like I talk to you. F*bombs and all. He is interesting, supremely intelligent, and generally doesn’t give a fuck. He is sarcastic and witty and sometimes a bit of an ass. I adore him and I am sure you can see why he took to me. He has two children a little older than me, but they both live far away so I think he sortof saw me like a surrogate.

I lost touch with Richard when I moved to North Carolina but after my divorce I found him again and we picked up right were we left off. Like I had just been on vacation or something. We meet regularly and have coffee and talk about philosophy and politics and relationships and how fucked up the world is. We talk about how people  don’t know how to be human any more. We gossip about silly shit. We just spend time together.

Now get ready for the irony.

Richard has COPD. I don’t know if that means anything to you… it didn’t to me. All it meant was that he now used oxygen. No big deal…old people stuff right? Only it is. Its a really big deal. Richard is dying… and I didn’t figure this out until yesterday… which… IRONICLY is the day I started reading Tuesdays with Morrie.

Life is so fucking crazy sometimes. Now I’m not saying that Richard is like Morrie. As a matter of fact the idea of that makes me laugh. He is to cynical and snappy for that. However… the parallels are the same in a lot of ways.

His shorted time makes me realize how freaking much time I waste, how much we all waste, on absolute bullshit. I am making a vow, here and now, that I am going to do my best to never say. “I’m sorry, I’ve just been so busy,” ever again.

We fill our lives with material things. Cars, and houses, and jobs we hate, and money. And it doesn’t fufill us. But we are told if we just have more then we will be happy, so we seek more. Of course it never works. There is a reason rich people suffer from depression and anxiety the same as everyone else. Material goods will NEVER make you happy.

What does make you happy is love. Affection. Quality time. Conversation. Touch. Play. Laughter. Even Tears. And I think we all know this deep down but somehow we buy into our cultures philosophy that money makes you happy.

I can’t tell you how glad I am that I realized the seriousness of Richards condition before it was to late. I’m having coffee with him tomorrow. And I am going to make time for him… and everyone else… more often.                  

I feel good when I give and I can give my time for free. I can feel good… happy… for free. That makes me truly rich.