by Ann Wells (Los Angeles Times)

My brother-in-law opened the bottom drawer of my sister’s bureau and
lifted out a tissue-wrapped package.  “This,” he said, “is not a slip.
This is lingerie.”  He discarded the tissue and handed me the slip.
It was exquisite; silk, handmade and trimmed with a cobweb of lace.
The price tag with an astronomical figure on it was still attached.
“Jan bought this the first time we went to New York, at least 8 or 9
years ago.  She never wore it.  She was saving it for a special
occasion.  Well, I guess this is the occasion.”  He took the slip from
me and put it on the bed with the other clothes we were taking to the
mortician.  His hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, then
he slammed the drawer shut and turned to me.  “Don’t ever save
anything for a special occasion.  Every day you’re alive is a special
occasion.”

I remembered those words through the funeral and the days that
followed when I helped him and my niece attend to all the sad chores
that follow an unexpected death.  I thought about them on the plane
returning to California from the Midwestern town where my sister’s
family lives.  I thought about all the things that she hadn’t seen or
heard or done.  I thought about the things that she had done without
realizing that they were special.

I’m still thinking about his words, and they’ve changed my life.  I’m
reading more and dusting less.  I’m sitting on the deck and admiring
the view without fussing about the weeks in the garden.  I’m spending
more time with my family and friends and less time in committee
meetings.  Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experience
to savor, not endure.  I’m trying to recognize these moments now and
cherish them.

I’m not “saving” anything; we use our good china and crystal for every
special event–such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, the
first camellia blossom.

I wear my good blazer to the market if I feel like it.  My theory is
if I look prosperous, I can shell out $28.49 for a small bag of
groceries without wincing.  I’m not saving my good perfume for special
parties; clerks in hardware stores and tellers in banks have noses
that function as well as my party-going friends.

“Someday” and “one of these days” are losing their grip on my
vocabulary.  If it’s worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see
and hear and do it now.  I’m not sure what my sister would have done
had she known that she wouldn’t be here for the tomorrow we all take
for granted.  I think she would have called family members and a few
close friends.  She might have called a few former friends to
apologize and mend fences for past squabbles.  I like to think she
would have gone out for a Chinese dinner, her favorite food.  I’m
guessing–I’ll never know.

It’s those little things left undone that would make me angry if I
knew that my hours were limited.  Angry because I put off seeing good
friends whom I was going to get in touch with–someday.  Angry because
I hadn’t written certain letters I intended to write–one of these
days.  Angry and sorry that I didn’t tell my husband and daughter
often enough how much I truly love them.

I’m trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that
would add laughter and luster to our lives.

And every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that it is
special.

Every day, every minute, every breath truly is . . . a gift from God.

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