The other day, my husband arrived home at 8:30 a.m. after a night in the hospital. It was my 2-year old son's birthday. When he heard the garage door open, he immediately dropped the dump truck he had been playing with and exploded out the door. My husband was waiting for him in a squat as he ran full speed into his open arms. My husband threw him into the air and said, "Happy Birthday!" My 1-year old was not far behind. He toddled towards his dad as fast as his little legs would carry him and arrived just in time to be scooped up by my husband's one empty arm. He stood with his back to me as he held both boys effortlessly, one in each arm, chatting and laughing with them.
I was hit suddenly and powerfully by the realization of how sweet that greeting truly was. In a flash I felt like my memory was taking a photograph of my husband standing there, young and strong, holding his two boys in his arms. Their adoration of him and his love and care for them were almost palpable. I realized that someday his body will be bent over with age and unable to easily pick up little children. I realized that someday, there won't be little kids that will run up to my husband when he arrives home. The thoughts that blasted me during those few seconds made it feel like minutes had passed.
My husband turned to walk towards me standing in the doorway. The realization came with such force that I had to turn away from him so that he would not notice my tears.
It was an unusual experience, but one that I later tied to an earlier experience.
About two weeks ago, I was heading away from my checkout isle at Costco, eager to get in line to have my receipt marked off. An elderly gentlemen was ahead of me. He pushed his cart along slowly, with much effort. We were far from the exit. Out of habit I swerved my cart slightly in order to quickly pass him on his left. Suddenly, I thought of how frustrating it must be for him to constantly have people breezing past. I thought: someday that could be my husband, hobbling slowly along, leaning on his cart, alone.
I pulled back. I couldn't pass him.
I wondered if he wished he could be young again, full of strength and speed. I wondered if he was lonely when he arrived home. I wondered if he was saddened that everyone overlooked him and zoomed past. I wondered if he had many regrets. I wondered if he was happy. I wanted him to feel recognized and respected. More than anything, I hoped that he had someone waiting for him at home, someone that adored him and appreciated him. Tears came to my eyes as I walked slowly behind him.
These experiences reminded me of how precious and temporary life really is. We change quickly, and inevitably, all of us. Our daily choices and experiences increase our love for others, our depth of understanding and compassion, and our inner peace and happiness.