What is the hardest thing for you to give up on a daily basis?
For me, it’s my time. Since I’m a planner, it’s a continual challenge to release time to spend with people and get involved with things outside my agenda. In the past, I gave more priority to my projects than to people.
However, in recent years God showed me the importance of sometimes letting go of my neatly-arranged plan so I can enjoy opportunities to spend time with others. Even when it’s only a slice of time, the beauty and the memories that fill my life make it worth it. Time with people is more often at the top of my list now.
This life-changing lesson from God produced a willingness and a desire to build a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Uncle Miles. When my Aunt Elia passed away, his life changed drastically. Mine did, too. Her death was one of many cascading illnesses and death among my family within a short period of time. In my sorrow, I cried out to God, “Father, please don’t take Uncle Miles yet. I can’t say goodbye to anyone else right now. Please let me have more time with him.”
God gave me six years. Those were the most memorable years in our relationship, because Uncle Miles and I became close friends, not just family. Our friendship filled the empty places in both of our lives. We began calling each other every weak—he from the west coast and I from the east side of the country. We discussed family memories and happenings, but he always wanted to know about me. And I asked about the highlights and downsides of his life at the retirement center.
It didn’t matter that he was in his 90’s. He stayed engaged in my life. Each year in the fall, I traveled to Oregon for two weeks to see family and friends. I made time to visit Uncle Miles often, talk on the phone in between visits, and enjoy some meals together. We also started a tradition of taking a day trip together, usually drinking in the beauty of the Colombia River gorge and enjoying the majesty of Mt. Hood. Though hindered by macular degeneration, he remained in charge, cautioning me and making sure I didn’t miss any turns.
One year, after delivering him back to the center following our trip, we sat in his apartment and talked some more. Words full of encouragement and mutual admiration and affirmation flowed between us.
Finally, we stood and hugged each other good-bye. “Honey, thanks for spending time with me. Really enjoyed your visit and especially our trip today.”
Knowing that I was leaving the next day, we looked into each other’s eyes with love. I believe he knew he would never see me again. I was unaware. Perhaps that’s why God prompted me to say, “Uncle Miles, I’ll see you next time . . . but if not, I’ll see you in heaven.”
Uncle Miles died less than three months later, not from an illness, but unexpectedly one early morning at the age of 97. It’s been three years, and I still cry about his absence at times. Yet, I have no regrets because God showed me how to give up my time more freely—even small slices of time—so I wouldn’t miss the chance to build memories with my uncle that I’ll cherish forever.
What memories have you been able to build with a special person because you adjusted your plan and spent more time with them?
Life Through Loss
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Kathy Christiansen said:
Thank you for this critical reminder of priorities Gail. People should always trump “stuff”. I visit my nearly 100 year old aunt and uncle as often as I can, knowing that each visit will be a delight to them and an encouragement to me. My children take their children to visit their great-great aunt and uncle, bringing baby giggles and grins to both sides of the family. Time is a gift that can’t wait to be given.
Thanks, Kathy, for your beautiful stories! Love how you are a model for your children and grandchildren to follow. Can I use your fabulous quote, “Time is a gift that can’t wait to be given”?!
Kim Tennison said:
Gail, this is such an important life lesson told so beautifully. Thank you so much for your God-given gift!
Thank you, Kim! I’m glad my story about this life lesson was meaningful to you. We need to make the moments count, don’t we! Can’t remember if we’ve met yet? I’ve shifted my blog to my website, so I’ll add you to my new blog list. Also, “Gail’s Monthly Musings,” will launch in April and I’ll make sure you receive that monthly communication as well!