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Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Last Day

I do not know the last time I ran without pain.  I wish I could remember.  I wish I could think back to that day and remember what it was like.  Was it a sunny day or a rainy day.  I used to love to run in the rain, even on the cold days.  And on the cloudless days filled with sunlight I would be filled with energy and felt as if I could run forever.

But then came that day; the day that I do not remember; when running was no longer about making the distance in a decent time; but about overcoming the pain in one joint or another.

If only I could remember that day, that last day that I ran without pain; that last day that I could float uphill without a thought; that last day that I felt I could run forever. If I could remember it I would think of it often and replay it in my head over and over again.  But I cannot remember it.  I just know that there was such a day.

What would life be like if we had a sense of the ending of things?  If we had a keen awareness of the last day; the last day that things would be the same; the  last day that we had to spend with a person we loved; the last chance that we had to say I love you?

When I arrived at our home in Rocky Mount, N.C. prior to my father's death, I could already sense that something irrevocable had occurred.  Something had changed that could never be changed back. The house in which I had grown up was never to be the same.  Dad's last day came two weeks later, but was still a surprise, and I was still unprepared.  It was the finality of it all; knowing that I would never see him again; that he would never again walk down the hallways of my childhood home.

In the 19th century when people left the eastern United States to travel west to Oregon or California seeking their fortune, they left behind people they loved.  And there was the very good likelihood that they would never see them again.

What must it have been like for them to ride away knowing that?  What must it have been like for the people who were left behind, to know that their son or their daughter was leaving, never to be seen by them again?

What would it be like for us to treat each absence away from a loved one as the last time we would ever see them.  Would we ever again leave each other angry?  Would we ever again storm away?

Marcus Aurelius, a Roman Emperor, has been credited with saying, "Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense."

The lesson we learn in living is that life is fleeting and impermanent and many of its changes can be painful.  The challenge of life is to rise above this pain and to live fully in each moment.

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