By Jenny Schiller
This year I attended a prayer service for a man who died unexpectedly after a surgical procedure. His family had no time to prepare for this sudden loss.
Life changed for them overnight.
Listening to stories told about Joe, many things stood out: his love of the University of Kentucky, his love for his wife and her baking, his work ethic, his care for children and even his restlessness during extended church hymns.
There were tearful memories and humorous tales reflecting the personality of this beloved man. I realized all the stories spoke about love and commitment: love of family, love of God and commitment to his wife, family, church, community and friends. Joe’s values included time spent in small, selfless acts that touched many.
As I left the visitation, I was struck by how well-lived his life had been. Joe’s moments showed clear and honest intention. His life as a Catholic was not only filled by regularly attending church, but also in service to the community at St. Bernard Church and in caring for family and friends. As a “foster grandparent” in his parish’s service-learning program, Joe touched the lives of young children in a memorable way.
While Joe’s time on this earth ended earlier than expected, there were no regrets. Joe needed no extra time to make things right with the people he loved or with God. Things were made right on a daily basis. When the final parting came, Joe was, in fact, ready. He was at peace with family, friends and God.
How amazing it would be if each of us lived every moment of our lives this way. Some days, there isn’t a spare moment. We act as if all time must be spent productively. We have microwaves, computers and text messaging to speed things up. We screen phone calls and follow people online without spending a real moment in their presence. We choose to be unavailable by turning off, unplugging and tuning out.
Why is it so hard to be fully present with one another? We multi-task better than any generation before us and yet there is always too much to do. I am certain that we have the same number of minutes in every day as generations before us.
Perhaps we are so caught up in “doing,” that we miss the real moments of being. In my life, I have often wanted to hit a pause button to extend a special moment and to take in the fullness I encountered for what never seemed long enough. I wanted to pause as the child slept with her damp, soft face nestled against my shoulder, when the joyful first word was read or during the nervous excitement of prom.
There are simple moments of sheer beauty in a sunrise, an ocean wave or a mountaintop worthy of “pause” and complex moments of sitting at the bedside of people we love. While we don’t want them to suffer, we surely don’t want to lose them. We want just one more chance to hold a moment with them.
Living our faith as Catholics requires us to make decisions about our time. The way we spend our moments is evidence of our values, our faith in God and our care for others. In pausing to fully experience the wholeness of life, we find reflections of love and commitment. We take inventory of our lives with greater awareness of where we “pause.”
The challenge is to remain in Joe’s time — making each moment count for us and for the people and community who matter most — living our faith in the time of no regrets.
Jenny Schiller is a member of St. Albert the Great Church.