Like many of you, I jumped on the Facebook bandwagon and am now bombarded with daily, hourly or even to the minute status updates. Many are from what I would dub first tier friends; people I've known since childhood or those that have become close over the years, and family. The updates range from family photos or news of a new birth to play by play updates of football games. Many are of the ilk of useless announcements chronicling the days' lunch offerings. Facebook gives us license to play voyeur, peering into other peoples lives and minds to witness some of the most mundane and disposable information ever assembled. Much of which I could survive without. Early in my FB relationship, in the interest of self preservation I decided to weed out anyone whose posts were regularly steeped in venom or negativity. Some of my "brick and mortar" friends wholly reject Facebook as veritable timesuck and a frivolous waste of precious and limited time.
Today I came across a post from a FB friend who according to FB is also friends (via FB) with four of my FB connections. I've seen her posts before and wondered how I knew her. By looking at the friends we have in common I determined that I didn't know her, never knew her and was only connected with her via Facebook's connection wizard algorithm. Nonetheless, her icon is a pretty set of eyes and she often posts music or videos that I would occasionally find time to enjoy. By her photo, she comes across as mid to late 20's. Today I caught a proxy post to her account from what appeared to be a close friend with permission to access her account and post updates. It stopped me in my proverbial tracks giving me pause. I was compelled to scroll back through her most recent posts to put the stunning update into better perspective. Paging through her timeline I came to understand that she had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, one that her doctor suggested would take her life soon. I read on feeling a heavy sadness for this person whom I did not even know. I began to superimpose myself into her story. Me as her... my daughter as her, etc. The sadness I felt weighed on me such that I could not shake it for the rest of the day. It wasn't hard for me to imagine myself in her position and the people I'd leave behind. I was sad for them. I was sad for me and what I'd miss of their lives. Then I imagined she was my daughter and how sad it must be for a father to live the rest of his life with only the memory of an ill-timed loss of a daughter.
The thought still haunted me as my household went through its nightly bedtime routine. My son being only 6 months requires that my wife provide most of his care whereas my daughter of almost 2 years and I enjoy a nighttime ritual that ends my day with purpose. As 2 year olds are wont to do, she sometimes rejects the notion of going to bed even at the end of the practiced and carefully orchestrated routine. First, I help her into her pajamas (jj's she calls them). We brush our teeth and settle into the rocking chair to read 2 or 3 books before turning on some nighttime music and tucking her into bed. A parting salutation and the lights go off. Most nights she curls up sweetly in her bed clutching her stuffed animal du jour donning the most beautiful grin as she awaits her goodnight kiss. Tonight however like some other nights she wriggled and whined and resisted repose. Most restless nights, I just continue out of the room reassuring her and encouraging her to lie down and go "night-night". Most nights, I'm busy to get back to work. Most nights I'm busy to just get a little me time before going to bed myself. Most nights, like most days are filled with the "stuff" we do that makes up our lives. Tonight however, with the thoughts of the day's Facebook entries still weighing on my mind, I hesitated. I decided to stay and try a diplomatic wind-down. I attempted to reason with her insisting that we had already read the promised 2 books and that the rest of the house was also going to bed and that there was nothing more to do but to get back in bed and go to sleep. Not having it... If any of you have ever seen my daughter's "don't wanna go to bed yet" face then you'd understand why we climbed into the rocking chair and just rocked at her behest. Curled up in my lap, her head on my chest her tiny toes piddling against the palm of my hand, she sniveled "rock?" As we creaked back and forth, she shifting her weight to find the most comfortable positions, I couldn't help thinking how at best, I was destined to be absent for as much half of her life. "Pray?" she muttered. We prayed for our family and for that unknown girl. Neither of us could tear ourselves from that chair. We rocked, the lullabies droning on, the sound of her slowed breathing and an occasional *sniff*, her tear soaked hair against my cheek, the weight of her body sinking into my folds... we rocked.
Today's events have me remembering that it's neither the unbelievably low price we got on a flat screen for the bedroom nor the amount of stuff we amass; It's not the level of success we've attained at our careers nor the timeliness of our holiday card distribution that matter. It's the time we spend with one another that is most important. As we rush through our lives filling our days in the pursuit of happiness through ownership we lose focus on that which is truly valuable.... time. As I reflect on loved ones who have passed, I can't help remembering how often I deferred visits due to financial concerns or the naivete' that time was abundant. In retrospect the regret of time lost is greater than the gain of whatever it was that kept me away.
Our time is finite and not guaranteed. Lose focus of that and you will lose the best part of living. When doing your holiday shopping this year, try to remember that the greatest gift of all is already in your possession and give it generously.