We Just Never Know...
Tuesday, April 24th, is always a reminder day for me.

You know, the kind of day that keeps telling you something you shouldn’t ever forget.

I woke up out of sorts this particular April 24th..
I was short with Howard (who never, ever deserves that kind of treatment).
I was cross with my fellow commuters on the road.
I was curt with my colleagues at the office.
It wasn’t until almost 11 o’clock that I realized why.

Throughout the month of April, from the first week when I mentally tracked family or loved ones with
birthdays during the month, I had known, in the back of my mind, that April 24th was coming.

It would have been my mother’s birthday had she lived to see it.
It was always a very special day for me too.
A time to show Mom just how much she was appreciated and loved.
A time to go out of my way to find that perfect something she’d mentioned wanting to have, just to
surprise her with a gift that said I cared enough to make the effort.

It has seemed strange, all these years, not to have her to fuss over on April 24th.
This year, apparently, my subconscious remembered.
It reminded me that I cannot ever erase the memory of such lovely days as birthdays celebrated
with my mother.
It reminded me not to try.

No sooner had I dealt with the reality of April 24th than the phone rang.
It brought devastating news, The kind you can’t really comprehend right off the bat.
The kind that leaves you shaken and unsettled.

A young friend, filled with the promise of a new career, new wife, new veterinary clinic just beginning
to blossom with patients, had died.
He was only 29.
He was strong, vigorous, a real health nut.
He was brilliant, handsome and had every good thing going for him.
He suffered a ruptured aneurysm and was gone in the blink of an eye.
His beautiful new building, ready to help him heal the helpless animals he loved, stands empty.
His lovely young wife, eagerly awaiting her graduation as an elementary school teacher, widowed
before she even had a chance to savor being Jack’s other half.
He was filled with humor and determination.
He tackled life with gusto, aiming for perfection in everything he did.
And when I heard the news, I couldn’t contain my tears.

Once again, I was reminded. This time, harshly and cruelly.
No one gets forever.

Whether someone dies at 56 like Mom, after years of battling cancer, pain and despair, or at 29,
after no illness at all.
Whether there is warning or sudden shock … death is no respecter of anyone’s time schedule.

Death doesn’t allow anyone to take a few more years to realize a dream.
Death demands instant respect, instant adherence to the call, instant grief for those who remain behind.

Like most other people, I tend to think in terms of the future.
When Howard and I retire, we will …
When I get into the office tomorrow, I will …
When I am ready, I will …
When we get older, we will …

How foolish! How presumptuous! Who’s to say there will a retirement, a tomorrow? Ask Jodi  …
what they had planned for a future? Everything they’d worked and hoped for. Not what they got.

I grieve over Jack’s loss for a number of reasons.
First, because he was so full of promise that will never be realized.
Second, for those he served and what his loss will mean to their lives.
And finally, because I never had the chance to say a real goodbye.
Just a quick “See’ya!” as we left the last hockey game together.

We didn’t shake hands or hug.
We would, after all, see each other come fall or when my kitten needed Jack’s gentle touch.
We never know, you see. We never know if the people we value will ever return to our lives.
We need to say what we feel while we have the chance.
We need to let people know how important they are to us while they can still appreciate that knowledge.
We need to live each day as though it were our very last.
We all know that. It’s something we live with almost from the time we’re old enough to know about
death.
Somehow, though, we forget. We tend to live as if there will always be a tomorrow.
The reminder that it just isn’t so came home to me on Tuesday.
Tuesday, April 24th.