Every day I pass a cemetery driving to and from our house, often several times in an afternoon. Some days I notice it, but most days it’s part of the great white noise of life that gets pushed to the periphery of my mind; the towering mountain of stuff that I give little thought to.
But today this place stopped me in my tracks and stole the breath from my lungs. As I drove past, a small earth mover had just dug a hole, depositing a large, coffee-colored pile of dirt next to it. I realized this hole had a name. This hole was for someone; someone with a family and plans and friends and dreams—someone who too may have driven by this cemetery every day without giving it much thought, someone who probably didn’t imagine that their story would end in this spot on this day.
I thought about the fact that this hole will soon be surrounded by a quivering choir of red-eyed mourners who weren’t ready to say goodbye to someone they loved. They will say the words out loud or in their heads that they neglected to say before, to the person whose home will be that hole. Standing around this open section of earth they will find a gratitude they never had for the one they loved. They will take a painstaking inventory of their own lives. They will probably vow to themselves to live differently, to not take a moment for granted, to not forget how fleeting it all is.
And they will walk away from that hole, and gradually they will eventually become as oblivious to the fragility of life, as I have been while driving past this cemetery preoccupied with the many supposedly important things that demand my attention.
For a brief moment, the sight of that hole shook me out of the numbing haze of the ordinary I’m usually in; that potent cocktail of busyness and obligations and responsibilities that fools us all into wasting so much daylight. It was a momentary gift of clarity for a mind usually crowded with thoughts and worries that do not merit so much real estate.
I know that one day there will be a hole that is dug for me; a specific date and time when people gather to remember me and to say goodbye, a place where this body will be stilled and where I will have finished the work I have here to do. But until that time, and until they dig that hole, I hope I’ll live a little better than I have been living. I hope I’ll see more clearly. I hope I’ll laugh more. I hope I’ll slow down and enjoy myself.
Friend, look around you.
Notice the things you easily pass by every day.
Listen to the birds.
Breathe in the wildflowers.
See the colors in the sky.
Savor the food in front of you.
Look into the eyes of the people across the table from you and the people you pass by.
Pay attention to the way your child’s face is changing.
Grab the hand of the person you love.
Pause and cultivate gratitude.
Feel the weight of your feet upon the ground.
Endeavor to see all the life that you so easily miss as you hurry and struggle through this day.
Far sooner than any of us would like, they will dig a hole or choose a container or plan a farewell for each of us. And until that day, until the moment when we are no longer living—let’s do our best to live.
Originally Published on JohnPavlovitz.com
Earth, Water, Sky: YESSSSSSSS!!!! 3 Men, 3 Adventures, 3 Stories. Now on The Good Men Project
|Sky High and Freefalling||Rock Climbing and the Rush of Falling||The Water Is My Home||The Hardest Part of a Triathlon: The First Step|
Earth, Water and Sky was produced in proud partnership with the United States Air Force
Photo: Getty Images