I have three brothers. They are all younger than me but in the true spirit of Catholic families in the 60s, not by much. My middle brother was calling to tell me that my oldest brother had suffered a massive heart attack sometime after going to bed on Saturday night and had not survived. What? Up to that point I had been half asleep but now I was wide awake.
After hanging up, the rest of the night was spent pacing the house or laying awake in bed staring at the ceiling. Not only was I trying to process the news but I was filled with dread as I thought about the calls I would have to make to both sets of parents. I had decided it would serve no purpose to call them in the middle of the night. Let them enjoy one last night of peaceful sleep as it will likely be their last for the forseable future.
Needless to say the past few days have been filled with overwhelming sadness. I can't seem to focus on anything-not even my garden. I have been asked to jot down a few memories to be read at the funeral mass tomorrow. Although I have many I am unable to translate them into words. Naturally we are all saddened by the loss of my brother Jeff. We feel cheated out of what we assumed would be twenty, thirty or even forty more years of time together. And even though most of us go about our business otherwise, on some level we all know that no day on earth is guaranteed.
Jeff would have been 52 next week. By most standards he died too young, but not if you put it into perspective. Jeff lived and enjoyed a good life. He had a chance to fall in love and get married, watch his daughter grow up and enter college, pursue his hobbies, and make years of memories with his family and friends. Lots of people never get that chance. Lots.
How many family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers or even acquaintances do you know who would give anything, anything to have only had 52 years with their child or sibling, or 15 years with their spouse or parent? Lots. Rather than focus on the time we didn't get with Jeff, we should focus on the time that we did. And be grateful for every minute of that time.
By no means am I advocating that we should live each day like it was our last. Living that way would be depressing and counterproductive. Instead we should get up in the morning and look for joy in the little things that happen every day. Woven together, it's the small joys that make for a full and happy life. Jeff lived this way and even though our sorrow is deep, it is for ourselves. For Jeff we should be happy.