Read the poems, before it is too late

Published 9:20 am Friday, May 1, 2009

My father, a Methodist minister, once illustrated a sermon with a story about a wizened old farmer who, at the graveside, after the funeral of his wife, handed the preacher a worn book of poetry and said, “Preacher, this book of poems was hers. She always wanted us to read them together, but I never had time. I guess maybe we don’t understand what time is for until it’s too late.”

I was reminded of that little story this week when one of my kids sent me a similar one:

The man opened his wife’s underwear drawer and picked up the silk paper wrapped package.

He unwrapped the box and stared at both the silk paper and the box.

“She got this the first time we went to New York, 8 or 9 years ago. She has never put it on, was saving it for a special occasion. Well, I guess this is it,” he said.

He walked to the bed and placed the gift box next to the other clothing he was taking to the funeral home.

His wife had just died.

Later that day, the man told a friend, “Never save something for a special occasion. Every day in your life is a special occasion.”

The man’s friend said that changed her life.

“Now I read more and clean less,” she said.

“I sit on the porch without worrying about anything.

“I spend more time with my family, and less at work.

“I use crystal glasses every day.

“I’ll wear new clothes to go to the supermarket, if I feel like it.

“I don’t save my special perfume for special occasions; I use it whenever I want to.

“The words some day and one day are fading away from my vocabulary. If it’s worth seeing, listening or doing, I want to see, listen or do it now.”

All of that left me wondering what that woman might have done on the morning of the day she died, had she known that was to be her last day.

Perhaps she would have called her relatives and closest friends. She might have called old friends to make peace over past quarrels.

Each day, each hour, each minute, is special. Live for today, for tomorrow is promised to no one.

We never know what today or tomorrow will bring to us. None of us, no matter how young or old, should live our lives as if we had all the time in the world left to us.

The truth is, we don’t know what will happen to us tomorrow or next week, let alone this afternoon.

Enjoy today. Open those gifts. Wear that special dress. Use that China and drink from that old cup your grandfather gave you.

Most of all, tell your kids, your friends, your parents how much you love them and appreciate them. We don’t know what the future holds for us, so we need to do the best we can to be the best we can be before it’s too late.

David Sullens is president of Roanoke-Chowan Publications LLC and publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald and the Gates County Index.