Sunday, January 29, 2006

Reflections on taking the time... while there still is time...

I know I said in the last post that I’d give you an update on the knee and running, but it’ll have to wait. Sorry, folks.

There’s something else I want to write about today.

A few things happened this past week, in between class presentations, a musical and an opera. One is that I took the time to tell someone I see on a fairly regular basis that I appreciate the positive influence he’s been in my life.

I think we often don’t take the time to tell people these sorts of things. I’m as guilty of this as the next person, I confess. I know that life is short and you never know when your time might come and you may never have the chance to say nice things to people, but even so… Like most people, I get caught up in my own list of things to do…. goals, plans, doing, being… that I often don’t let my thoughts or feelings for others evolve into expression.

Besides, I think our society almost conditions us not to, in some ways. Ever notice that if you tell someone you admire them, they often feel awkward… don’t know what to say? Or worse, wonder why you’re “really” saying it? I have found myself in that position before, too. We almost get programmed not to accept it when people pat us on the back, at times.

Anyway, this week I took the time to say positive things to someone. Of course, me being me, it all went down in a letter. Lucky for the recipient, it was a short one – only four or five pages, I think, as opposed to the 15 to 20-pagers I’ve been known to churn out more times in my life than I can count.

That was one thing.

Another thing was that I received news from my step-Mom and Dad, that my Aunt Donna (Dad’s 70-something sister) has been in the hospital for three months, with a splintered femur. One day late last fall, she slipped outside and next thing you know, she's in the hospital, with multiple breaks in her leg. It happened about the same time as Dad needed some emergency eye surgery, which meant traveling a good eight hours or more, from their rural home, to get to a hospital equipped to perform it. In all the flurry of activity, they forgot to tell us about our aunt, which is perfectly understandable.

Anyway, I found out about it this week. Now, I just have to tell you, my Aunt Donna is one of my favorite people in the world. She shares a birthday with my best friend and both of them are strong, smart, vibrant women with spirits that shine bright enough to light up the entire earth, as far as I’m concerned.

Today, I called Aunt Donna at the hospital. She sounds as happy as ever, not being one to let life get her down – even when there’s a rod in her thigh and the only thing that gets her out of her hospital room is a motorized wheelchair.

We chatted. I told her about school. She told me about what books she’s reading, about my cousins and her upcoming surgery tomorrow, along with the intense physical therapy she’s doing every day.

Then she said, “Ya know… It’s eleven years ago today that Brian died. Can ya believe it?”

Brian was one her boys… my cousin… And someone I adored. Some of you will remember that back in September, I did the
AIDS walk in his honour.

Brian was another positive influence in my life… a language teacher, world traveler and someone who loved life. He often walked around with a mischievous twinkle in his eye and a sense of humour that was at times witty, at times playful and at other times, just plain goofy.

When I was brand new to teaching, Brian put together a huge package of activities for me to use with my classes… things he’d developed over the years and knew I could use. He had no issues with copyright or ownership. He just shared it and told me to use them, modify them however I wanted and share them as I saw fit. I still use some of his activities in my classes. And I still get a bit choked up when I see his small, neat handwriting in the margins, offering tips or hints on each activity.

So one theme that has emerged out of this week, quite by accident (or maybe not?) is mentorship. I’ve been thinking a lot about people who’ve had a profound and lasting positive influence on my life… how we carry a piece of them with us through memory, shared experience and lessons learned, even after we say goodbye. (Knowing, of course, that there are many different ways of saying goodbye to someone...)

I’m sure Aunt Donna will recover just fine. It’ll take time, but she’ll get there. She has a lot of pluck, that lady, and she’s known to not let life get in the way of her living.

I do think I’d best go look for a bright, happy birthday card for her though, since her special day is next week…

15 comments:

Anvilcloud said...

I have to tell you that I am very impressed with the maturity of your writing. You are young in years but not in the head apparently.

Chrystal said...

I think it is good to reflect on those who have been positive influences and let them know. I think people like to know when they have impacted other people for the better...and it is good for us to remind ourselves of who we have in our lives.

Constantine said...

Very thoughtful and nicely done post Sarah.

Vee said...

What a lovely post. Well expressed.

ipodmomma said...

lovely! will be keeping Aunt Donna in my thoughts for a very speedy and complete recovery...

it is nice when we feel appreciated... good that you shared with that person...

sure like those 'short' letters... :)))

Janice said...

She sound plucky! It also ways sad to hear about someone who's pased on, and Aids is a nasty buiness.

Are you going to get her a get well card too?

Anonymous said...

You are so right! It's like a couple of years ago, when I went out and told people in my life I love them, some recieved it well and others were a little surprise I think.
It's like I also don't understand why some people don't forgive at all. Thanks for the posts.

psbowe said...

previous anonymous was me, doofus me!

zouzou said...

Reminds me of a song... can't remember which one, but there's one out there...or maybe more. Good for you to actually verbalize what is so often left unsaid. Gratitude is a particularly graceful manifestation of acknowlegement. or something like that.

robtherunner said...

I have read this post a couple of times now and I will admit that it is a hard thing to do to tell people how they have influenced you. There are many people that support me in my life, but I must admit that I also catch a lot of grief from my family and friends because they do not understand my obsession with running. I always get the comment that I would have plenty of time for my homework and other things if I did not run so much. I am to the point that I am tired of explaining myself. I am also at a tough point in my life where I feel as if the people in my life cannot understand my goals than oh well for now. I am just too busy to try and come up with a good way to exlain things. This seems to upset some of them and I just throw my hands in the air and admit defeat for now. I do not know how to get my point across much of the time. I want to tell them that I care about them all, but for now leave me alone unless you have something nice to say. I guess if this comment makes no sense than it will illustrate my point.

Gary said...

Good writing. I think mentors are very importatant (having and being). I also really can relate to your taking the time to give praise to someone who you care about. These are the things that make life rich (not just fast...)

Donna sounds like a wonderful person.

grannyfiddler said...

i was lucky enough to have an excellent mentor in my early years as a Christian... actually, more than one... and one of the first things they taught me was to appreciate myself. because God built whatever good qualities and potential i may have into me, and i can take no credit for it. to appreciate my own strengths and gifts is to appreciate God's handiwork. it's not vanity. vanity says "i take all the credit, and this somehow makes me better than others"

i hope you have neices and nephews; you seem like you're very cool auntie material.

kt said...

sarah sarah sarah
you are too funny!
i just appeared here after a few days of no-reading, no-writing.
i read back to your voting post.
ROLLING on the floor laughing!
as for THIS post..sad and cute and very thoughtful. you are such a great writer!
love ya, sarah. hope and pray all is well w/ you today. i'm not-running WITH YOU! =)

Kim said...

your a lucky lady to have had so many wonderful influences in your life. Family, coworkers...

prayers and well wishes to your Aunt Donna.. she sounds like a spunky gal..

wthenrest said...

Sarah you are so right. We take things for granted and people are on the list. I am rather speechless after reading...thought provoking...thanks as always