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Just ten years ago, I sat across the desk from adoctor with a stethoscope. “Yes, ” he said, “there isa lesion in the left, upper lobe. You have amoderately advanced case…” I listened, stunned, ashe continued, “You’ll have to give up work at onceand go to bed. Later on, we’ll see.” He gave noassurances.
Feeling like a man who in mid-career has suddenly been placed under sentence of death with anindefinite reprieve, I left the doctor’s office, walked over to the park, and sat down on abench, perhaps, as I then told myself, for the last time. I needed to think. In the next threedays, I cleared up my affairs; then I went home, got into bed, and set my watch to tick off notthe minutes, but the months. 2 years and many dashed hopes later, I left my bed and beganthe long climb back. It was another year before I made it.
I speak of this experience because these years that past so slowly taught me what to value andwhat to believe. They said to me: Take time, before time takes you. I realize now that this worldI’m living in is not my oyster to be opened but my opportunity to be grasped. Each day, tome, is a precious entity. The sun comes up and presents me with 24 brand new, wonderfulhours—not to pass, but to fill.
I’ve learned to appreciate those little, all-important things I never thought I had the time tonotice before: the play of light on running water, the music of the wind in my favorite pine tree.I seem now to see and hear and feel with some of the recovered freshness of childhood. Howwell, for instance, I recall the touch of the springy earth under my feet the day I first steppedupon it after the years in bed. It was almost more than I could bear. It was like regaining one’scitizenship in a world one had nearly lost.
Frequently, I sit back and say to myself, Let me make note of this moment I’m living right now,because in it I’m well, happy, hard at work doing what I like best to do. It won’t always be likethis, so while it is I’ll make the most of it—and afterwards, I remember—and be grateful. Allthis, I owe to that long time spent on the sidelines of life. Wiser people come to thisawareness without having to acquire it the hard way. But I wasn’t wise enough. I’m wisernow, a little, and happier.
“Look thy last on all things lovely, every hour.” With these words, Walter de la Mare sums upfor me my philosophy and my belief. God made this world—in spite of what man now and thentries to do to unmake it—a dwelling place of beauty and wonder, and He filled it with moregoodness than most of us suspect. And so I say to myself, Should I not pretty often take timeto absorb the beauty and the wonder, to contribute a least a little to the goodness? Andshould I not then, in my heart, give thanks? Truly, I do. This I believe.