When we began spending some time together I said we would discuss some of the “stuff that matters” in life. Hopefully, what you have read here has challenged you to think about some of the bigger questions in life. I also hope you have found some encouragement. I’ve tried to avoid “blah”-ging or trying to give anyone the faintest sense that I have life completely figured out. I don’t. But I do tend to ask a lot of questions. So while what follows will be intensely personal, I hope it won’t seem melodramatic or self absorbed. Instead, my hope is sharing a recent experience I had will challenge you to keep the right “appointments” in your life.
Life often seems to be what happens while we are making other plans. We get caught up in the need to achieve, experience, consume, and impress. Those things are a part of life. Yet in many ways those things gets in the way of what we say matters most. The time and effort of doing, having, getting, and impressing keeps us from making and keeping “appointments” with our spouses, our parents, our children, our friends and even ourselves. We find we have succumbed to the “hope” of “one day” only to find ourselves living out the Harry Chapin song “Cats in the Cradle.”
“When you coming home dad(son)? I don’t know when, But we’ll get together then. You know we’ll have a good time then.”
But that day doesn’t come. Sometimes, we can find our time to get to “one day” is far shorter than we thought.
I promised no melodrama so let me get to the point. About three weeks ago I “kept” a semi-annual appointment with my dermatologist. She noted a change in a spot on my back and proposed she remove it. She did so two weeks ago saying she would only call me if there were some “news” and would otherwise see me to take the stitches out. The day after the procedure, on a Friday afternoon at 4 p.m., her name appeared on my cell phone. Since I’d have had a squamous cell carcinoma (the slow growing, kind of easy to fix, don’t worry, sort of cancer) removed about two years ago I wasn’t alarmed. But when the nurse used the term melanoma (the mean, scary, I ain’t got no spit, kill you fast, kind of cancer) I didn’t really hear much else even as she said they “got it all” and I “only” needed to get a surgeon to take out a little more tissue as a “precaution.” (Wait. I thought you said you got it all.) Needless to say it was a long weekend. By Monday morning I had three or four questions the answers to which would determine the course, quality, and quite possibly, the length of my life. Thankfully, I got the best answers to all those questions.
During those few days my wife and I have come to call the “long scary weekend” I spent a lot of time wondering if I had kept the right appointments in my life, appointments being a metaphor for how I have invested my life. Fear is a great source of clarity. Not one I recommend, mind you, but powerful nonetheless. It can refine your sense of purpose in life even if you thought you were fairly clear on it. It can make you reflect more on how you will invest your life in both big and small ways. It can make you ask all kinds of deep questions. (It can also make you ask some weird ones, like “Can a 6’7” guy fit in a regular casket?” Laugh here. It’s okay. I did. But I still don’t know!) Once the fear passes it leaves you with the same feeling you have after a terrible thunderstorm has passed. You are suddenly aware of how beautiful a spring day really is. It is in the storms of life we realize how precious life is.
Most of my life I have been prone to philosophical musings, having the “soul of a poet” (again, laughter) trapped in a banker’s body. However, I readily admit I often cannot see the forest for the trees. I’m thankful for Stephanie to help with that. Not that I wouldn’t make some changes, but because of her and taking the long view about many things, I found myself at peace (mostly) about how I have invested my life; with the appointments I’ve kept. I’m grateful I’ve kept appointments with my dermatologist every six months. Because I did the surgeon who removed more “margin” from the site has told me more good news. I’ll need no further treatment. I thank God for that. But you can bet I will keep every follow up appointment with the doctors. And I will try to set and keep the right appointments in my life.
I’ve struggled about whether to share this or not. Forgive me if you’re thinking T-M-I, too much information. I’ll take that chance this will encourage you to keep all the right appointments in your life. Keep the faith!