The last day of 2008 has arrived. I have lived on this earth for 15,390 days. (Don’t bother to do the math. I’ll just admit I’m a member of the over 40 crowd.) During all that time, I have lived and breathed and awakened each day to make my way through the next 24 hours, but I haven’t always really lived. Except for a handful of memorable ones, I can’t recall what I accomplished or how I passed the time during most of those days. There were weeks that I wished would end quickly. There were times when my eyes were shut to everything going on around me. I have raced through phases of life, anxious to move onto the next, only to realize I had missed something important in my rush to move on. Much of that time was a gift that escaped my attention because I was too busy to notice or too closed off to care. But I have also grown in many ways.
Today marks the end of another calendar year and as I look back on the last 365 days, I realize that I am still learning, still growing and figuring out how to embrace life. I just wish it hadn’t taken so long. And hopefully the journey will never stop as long as I am still breathing.
There is nothing that opens one’s eyes to the precarious nature of life than the possibility that a loved one could be whisked away too soon. I spent much of the first half of this year dwelling on that very possibility. My dad’s kidneys were failing. I had been tested and knew I was a good match to be an organ donor, but the weeks and months until the final testing and surgery seemed to drag. Not a day went by when I didn’t think ahead to when we might actually be able to go through with a kidney transplant. And in the end of July it became a reality. Right through the day of our operations, there were concerns about my dad’s heart being strong enough to withstand such a major surgery, but it was. He made it. We did it! My kidney is now functioning very successfully in my dad’s body. I will never forget opening my eyes to see the team of transplant surgeons surrounding my hospital bed, telling me that all went well, looking at me with what seemed to be a sort of admiration. Donating my kidney was one of the most amazing and humbling experiences I’ve ever had. I would do it again in a heartbeat! (Well, except I kind of need the one that I have left.)
I still own the one on the right. The one on the left went to live with my dad.
And if that experience weren’t enough to remind me that each day is a gift, the point was driven home in June when Brad and two friends were involved in a roll-over car accident on a busy highway one Sunday afternoon. Justin, the driver suffered a seizure and lost control of the truck. The fact that they all walked away, relatively unharmed reinforced my belief that sometimes miracles do happen. I now hug my kids a little tighter and tell them I love them even more often than I did before.
Thankfully, the rest of the year was lacking in such major events, but the seeds of change had definitely been planted. I found myself reaching for more and stretching beyond my self-imposed boundaries.
I began to explore my faith in ways I never had before, shrugging off some of the “restrictions” of the faith in which I grew up. It became a journey I’ve often enjoyed. Church became something to look forward to. For the first time ever, I discovered I could be excited about my faith and that it might be ok to worship in places of other faiths.
I worried less about what other people thought.
I realized the importance of spending as much time with my kids as possible. They grow up too fast.
I learned that another person’s negative attitude doesn’t have to become mine. Trust me. It took me all this time to figure that out!
I realized that no matter how old I am, I am never too old to keep learning, and discovering and exploring and reaching.
And yes, I still had my bad days. Plenty of those. Of course, it’s hard to appreciate the good without the bad, so I guess even the bad days are a blessing in disguise.
I really only have one goal for 2009. Make every day count. I want to find something significant in each and every day that comes along. I want to take risks and never stop exploring. I’ve wasted too much time already.
Happy New Year, everyone!