Do Today

I visited a friend. It wasn’t a normal visit and in fact it wasn’t even a normal friendship.

We played on the same sports team, we had mutual friends, we had been in the same business. All was good. And then we went and did a business deal together and then it wasn’t all good anymore. She said it was ‘just business’ and maybe it was but I took it personally and though we parted as amicably as possible, inside I was angry, hurt and upset so, no, I wouldn’t have called her my friend anymore. A friend is someone you invite over to your house, someone you share your thoughts with, maybe have a double date with. No, if someone asked I would have called her more of an acquaintance now.

But something awful happened, she was given a terminal diagnosis. Terminal. My age, a bit younger, terminal. Just months before she was living a regular life now she was terminal. Shit.

Of course at this point nothing else about our past mattered anymore, everything seemed so trivial. I wanted to send her a note but when you don’t know what to say, what do you say?

I remembered when my Dad died and someone close to me said nothing. It wasn’t just that she didn’t come to the funeral it was that she didn’t acknowledge his death at all. That stung, I still remember feeling that 27 years later. Many years after his death, I asked her about this and she said she didn’t know what to say so she said nothing.

Something is better than nothing – anything is better than nothing, I think. So I sent her a short but heartfelt note.

And then the oddest thing happened, she wanted to see me. To say I was stunned wouldn’t come close to describing how I felt. Why would she want to see me? Me? She was in palliative care, medicated, in a dark room, in pain. At this time she should be surrounded by family and close friends, what the hell did she want me in that privileged space for?

I felt so uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I had to go because she asked, but honestly I didn’t feel like I deserved to be there. You see, as a nurse I have worked with many people in their last days of life. I have been with people when they took their final breaths. I waited while the machine that kept my dad alive was turned off. I know what it’s like to be with someone who is dying and I can tell you each and every time it’s a privilege to be there.

I didn’t earn the right to be in her room, yet here I was.

The room was dark with instructions on the door not to turn the lights on, inside the nurses had just finished trying to make her comfortable. She had dark sunglasses on and an oxygen mask over her mouth and nose. I touched her hand and let her know I was there.

Immediately she smiled, she shifted, she changed from a patient to a person. In a whisper so low I had to lean into her personal space to understand her, I heard her say, “Stephanie I’m so glad you’re here. I’m sorry it’s under these circumstances and I’m sorry about what happened between us.”

This was the beginning of a ninety minute visit that felt like five. We talked, we laughed, we sang, I ran my fingers through her hair and gave her a massage. Personal things, intimate things. Things a friend would do.

Before I left I asked her my favourite question, ‘If there was only one thing you could tell me what would it be?’ For the first time in our visit she said nothing for a long time, in fact I thought maybe she had fallen asleep. But she wasn’t asleep, she was thinking. She was taking my question very seriously and then she said, barely audibly but definite and certain, “Do today what you might not be able to do tomorrow.”

She knew what she was talking about, one day she was fine, the next day she was not and just six short months later, here she was.

“Do today what you might not be able to do tomorrow.”

– Forgive
– Play
– Be brave
– Try
– Move your body
– Include
– Help someone
– Love
– Learn something new
– Give the benefit of the doubt
– Take the first step
– Be kinder
– Travel
– Be optimistic
– Eat healthy
– Live – just freakin’ live your life well.

“Do today what you might not be able to do tomorrow.”

Not long after our visit I received the text from her husband; her short but valiant fight was over, she was gone. I can wish all I want to that things had been different but instead I choose to be grateful that she invited me into that privileged space at that extraordinary time and left me with insight that will make me a better person.

Her birth date, which is far too close to her date of death nears, in her honour, I pass her message on to you. It sure would be cool if you did something you wouldn’t have otherwise done because of her message.

“Do today what you might not be able to do tomorrow.”

Wise words from someone whose tomorrow did not come.

‘Do today what you might not be able to do tomorrow’, it’s just one more way to live Your Life, Unlimited.

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