Monday, August 10, 2009

One special moment can reveal a life

I’ve wanted to write this column for a long time now. The truth is I’ve been afraid. Afraid of not expressing what’s in my heart as eloquently as I would like. But I realized that perfectionism is the oppressor. And I can’t allow that Goliath to drown me in self-doubt and insecurity. My friends and family deserve better. You see, this column is really about them and what they’ve taught me.

There are many moments in our lives that change us, make us better people. Small moments. Big moments. Quiet moments that if we aren’t paying enough attention slip right by without our realizing their significance until much later.

These moments touch us and teach us something about ourselves and others and this big ball we live on. Someone says something or does something or nothing at all, and we realize that it’s a moment we will never forget.

Often these moments are ones we share at funerals, slivers of time that capture a loved one’s essence.

I’ve been blessed to have many of these can’t-forget moments in my life. Many of them have come while watching friends and family who are dying.

They see things differently. Little things mean more, and big things mean less.

They find beauty and the promise of new life in a branch dressed in ice. We see cold and frailty and death.

They listen to their heart- beat and hear a symphony. We home in on all the skipped beats and lost opportunities.

They face each day with hope and anticipation. We do so with some dread and trepidation.

Their perspectives are sweet gifts to us. Too often we unwrap these gifts after they’re gone, sad that we didn’t do it sooner. “If only,” we say. But “if onlys” lead to too many regrets.

To understand the value of a day, we first have to live the seconds.

It’s hard, I think, to live like you were dying, as Tim McGraw sings. It’s hard for us to see good in bad, hope in despair, success in failure. The best we can do is to keep trying.

And so, I’ve decided to share everyday moments with our readers on an occasional basis throughout the year. These may

be moments that have made me laugh or cry, think or be thankful. Whatever emotion they may have stirred in me, one thing is certain — they are moments that matter. They are moments that have taught me something and are helping me grow into the person I want to become.

Here are two to get started.


No one would have blamed Dee if she wasn’t at our church’s charity auction. No one at all. She was tired and weak and battling melanoma. But she wanted to be there with the rest of us, raising money for the local food bank.

It worried some of us that she was doing too much, pushing herself too hard, but it didn’t surprise us. It’s how Dee was, always giving. Always putting others first, whether it was collecting school supplies, hats or mittens for needy children, or helping with the annual Easter egg hunt and fall bazaar. Dee did what she knew best — give.

When the charity auction was over and everyone went home, we had to clean up. Dee could have gone home, but she stayed. She stood in the kitchen at the fire company washing the glass brandy snifters we had used for centerpieces. She and her husband, Dave, lent us the snifters each year for the event. These were the same glass brandy snifters they had used at their wedding reception. Dee washed one after the other, handling each one with care so we’d have them for years to come. When everything was cleaned up, Dee went home. She served and gave until she could serve and give no more.

Dee won’t be at our charity auction this month. She lost her battle last June, leaving behind her loving husband, 4-year-old twins Sarah and Erick and 9-year-old son Jordan. Dee Sowers was 34.

I know that as we place the glass brandy snifters on the tables this year, we will remember Dee and her commitment to making the world a better place — moment by moment.


Don had been in and out of the hospital for a year battling pneumonia and other breathing problems.

Short stays.

Long stays.

In-between stays.

But somehow he always ended up back at church collecting the early service offering. One Saturday last October, he sat behind a table at the annual bazaar selling raffle tickets for a quilt and other homemade treasures. He had just come home from the hospital the day before. A portable oxygen tank was by his side.

He could have stayed home and rested, but he didn’t. There were people to see and things to do. Even when he was feeling lousy, Don Fries never stopped serving and giving. Through pancreatic cancer, through open-heart surgery and through all of his breathing problems, Don helped when he could.

He died Jan. 12, leaving behind his wife, Evelyn, of 53 years, five wonderful children, four grandchildren, a step-grandchild and two great-grandchildren. I’ll miss Don at the bazaar this year. I wonder who will sell the raffle tickets.


When life gets a little tough or my day isn’t going exactly right or the kids are driving me crazy, I remember Dee and Don and so many others who have taught me that I shouldn’t wait until I’m dying to learn how to live.

Moments come and moments go. And some moments last forever.

First published in York Daily Record/Sunday News Feb. 4, 2007

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