In 1966, The Leo Burnett Company (ad agency) came out with the slogan, “Go for all the gusto you can get, because you only go around once in life.” This slogan was developed for one of the consumer products the agency represented. One could easily modify the slogan to say, “Appreciate every moment, everyone, and every day because you are not promised another one.”
I write this article only moments after having received an email from a family our foundation had recently approved for a grant. Only a week ago, “Steve” (not his real name) was encouraged by the medical news he had been receiving from his doctors, and was excited about the home and bath modifications we had approved to be made. His family had been concerned because Steve was scheduled to be released from the hospital in the fairly near future, but they were uncertain as to how they would get him into the house. Once in the house, he would not be able to access his bathroom as it currently existed. Steve lived in a city where the foundation had proven contacts for resolving needs of this type, and in fact had utilized a local contractor to perform just this type of work a few years earlier for another recipient. The foundation felt good about the fact that we could meet all of Steve’s needs in a timely fashion, and within budget. Then things changed.
Steve began having medical issues that at first only threatened to prolong his hospital stay. Two days later, his wife sent out an email with more detail, saying that once doctors got this under control, Steve would go back to rehab in order to get stronger. The next day she sent out another email, which said they had finally received a diagnosis of what was going on with Steve, and it was very, very bad. Doctors told Steve and his wife that his prognosis was terminal, and that he only had a couple of weeks left at the most. Three days after that, I received the following email from Steve’s wife, which in part said “We brought Steve home today to begin hospice care. We got him home about 3 p.m. He was very uncomfortable and in a lot of pain. Sadly, at about 7:50 p.m. Steve passed away.”
Even as I write this, the emotion wells within my heart. How many people leave for work in the morning not knowing they will never return home, perhaps the victim of a heart attack or traffic accident? We have all known individuals this has happened to, yet it remains a shock every time we hear such news. We tell ourselves we need to pay more attention to the important things of life, but as so often happens, the routines of our daily life reabsorb the space these thoughts once occupied. Going forward, I will not be making any New Year’s resolutions other than this. Even if it is only for a minute or two, I will tune out from my day to give thanks for it, and to mentally think about the people and things which truly matter. Who knows, given enough days to do this, it might actually change my behavior… which is the whole point!
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