This Life Is Short

Donna in high school yearbook

My dad’s recent passing reminded me that our opportunities are in the present, not the future. Spending time with those we care about is something that must occur in the present tense, not put off for some future day.

I say this because a few days ago, I received another reminder of this wisdom when my sister sent me a text that a dear friend I grew up with, Donna, had passed away suddenly. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. She was supposed to be there, living right around the corner from my parents’ home. I was supposed to go see her on my next visit to my hometown. That had been my pledge to myself — to be sure I did that the next time I was in town. But here’s the lesson in this post for anyone reading: never take life for granted. Never assume that our ideas of how life is supposed to be are correct.

donnafilkinsI’ve mulled this thing over for three days now, thinking, “Donna? Wait! You can’t go! We need to catch up after all those years.”

Why didn’t I make time before it was too late? Why hadn’t we stayed in touch all these years? Why did life take us down different paths? Was she happy, was she ok? Now I’ve lost the chance to have all the conversations I wanted to have with her. So much for “I’ll do that tomorrow.”

A few years ago I attended a milestone class reunion. It was immensely fun for us all. I had looked forward to seeing Donna there. Although she didn’t join us that night, I thought surely I would find a moment to see her in the days and months that followed. But then life got busy and complicated again.

It seems we reach certain milestones in life, when we have sorted things out for ourselves, have decided who we are and what we want out of life. Our actions are reoriented to those new aspects of ourselves, and yet, sometimes we yearn to understand where we came from and how we became the people we are now. In my case, I wanted to learn something more from Donna, wanted to hear her talk about her joys and sorrows, to talk with her about her life choices and mine. All I know about Donna’s journey through this world is that life after high school was a crazy mixture of joy and sorrow, challenges and victories. I had hoped visiting her would be joyful for both of us, as reunions with old friends often are. Now those moments are not possible. And I am sad about that. There’s no turning back now, no asking for a re-do on life’s twists and turns.

And so I have no choice but to find some peace in the sweet memories I have always carried about her. Donna’s smile was big, beautiful, and all embracing. She had a wondrously open heart and adventurous spirit. After all these years, I can still hear her voice, whispering some humorous tale or a tidbit of info that she found fascinating. She is a beautiful, tender soul who has moved on. Now her journey is one I cannot see. I am thankful to have known her, to have grown up with her, and to have been privileged to call her one of my dearest friends.

O my God, O Forgiver of sins and Dispeller of afflictions!  O Thou Who art pardoning and merciful!  I raise my suppliant hands to Thee, tearfully beseeching the court of Thy divine Essence to forgive, through Thy mercy and pardon, Thy handmaiden who hath ascended unto the seat of truth.  Cause her, O Lord, to be overshadowed by the clouds of Thy bounty and favor, immerse her in the ocean of Thy forgiveness and clemency, and enable her to enter the sanctified abode, Thy heavenly Paradise. Thou art, verily, the Mighty, the Compassionate, the Generous, the Merciful.

. . . A prayer from the Baha’i Writings

May her sister and brother, her family and friends, find comfort in the words of Henry Scott Holland, who said in his famous poem, “I have only slipped away into the next room…. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!”