Nothing is Worth More Than This Day

Tom's puppy, photo by Dean Vincent.

 

Nothing is worth more than this day. You cannot relive yesterday. Tomorrow is still beyond  your reach. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

Much of today was spent laying a friend to rest. His sudden death, of natural causes a few days ago, shocked us all. Our generous, kind and willing friend died far too soon. He lived life with gusto and a sense of humour, though he was also an excellent contrarian.  We knew him through the dog club, and much of Tom’s life was centered around his dogs. Today I stayed relatively composed until I saw his Labrador, Charlie, at the funeral home, and then it was all over for me. I’d stuffed my handbag with tissues before I left home. Between wiping my own eyes and handing them to friends, they were all gone before we got to the reception. The minister reported “a stirring visitation” the night before and of course, everyone had a great story about Tom.  On a screen on the wall, photographs gave us a glimpse into Tom’s life. There he is as a kid on a pony, a high school graduate, all earnest. There’s the young gunner in Vietnam,  there he is as the groom and his bride, the father and his boys, and the man and his dogs. In one he is wearing a too-small bathroom and scowling at the photographer. Every time that one appeared, I smiled.

At the cemetery he was sent off with a 21-gun-salute and Jeff, our friend and his, played Taps on bugle. There were gardenias tucked into the arrangement on top of the coffin, and Tom’s wife gently threaded them out and handed them one by one to family and friends. Later she told us that gardenias held a special meaning for her and Tom. When we got back to the car after the reception, that single gardenia had filled it with perfume. I wonder if I’ll ever breathe in the scent of a gardenia again without thinking of Tom.

People had plans with Tom, for this dog show or that one. For a field trial, a puppy match, a day training. “I just saw him Thursday,” they’d say and then we’d start to cry all over again. We don’t know when the story ends for us.

Afterwards, still in funeral weeds, I went to the Goodwill outlet. (A funny name when you think about it– it’s like you can find good will there on the cheap.) It’s a chaotic place full of strange people scrabbling over bins of wares hoping to find treasure. They line up obediently when a new table of stuff is wheeled out. When the table is in place, they set upon it like starving dogs. I won’t compete in the pushing and shoving. Instead, I just let it all roll over me, sifting through cast-offs on other tables and thinking. Except for pleasantries– a “sorry” here, an “excuse me” there, I don’t really talk to the others. Today, I found a beautiful antique book, a great old photo of two guys in the Foreign Legion, a lovely piece of German china, an old globe rolling among the detritus, it’s stand long gone. I thought a lot about Tom, and about what it would mean to be the first to go or the one left behind and how in any case, we never know when it’s all going to come to a screeching halt.

Much later in the afternoon my husband and I took our own retriever, a misbehaving buffoon, for a walk in the woods. We laughed at his antics, and admired the little waterfalls and tall canopies of trees. Though it was a sad day, it was a good day. Perhaps we owe it to those who leave us too soon to live each day to its best potential, to find joy in the mundane, to celebrate each morning visited upon us.

We’ll miss you, Tom.

Target number 63. Steps walked 7320. For breakfast: three eggs and a slice of fresh bread and a banana. For lunch, a roasted chicken breast (no skin, sigh), quarter cup of mashed potatoes, half cup of green beans, a tbsp. of macaroni and cheese. An oatmeal cookie, and in Tom’s honor, an inch square piece of red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Because life is too short to pass up red velvet cake.  Later in the afternoon, an iced coffee. Dinner was at the Chinese restaurant: 2 egg tarts, 4 oz of poached salmon, 2 oz grilled chicken, 1/4 cup of broccoli, 1/2 cup of green beans, 1/2 cup of cantaloupe. And a fortune cookie: “You will be comfortable in your old age.” We live in hope.

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