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It Only Takes One Moment
It was fleeting, so fleeting I shouldn’t be so certain it actually occurred. But I was.
Because of its quickness, it should have been unreliable. But it wasn’t.
There are well over six billion people on earth, and I guarantee you the majority of them will not be able to pinpoint the exact second—nanosecond, really—their entire view on life changed. But I can. To this day I can recall every single detail of that moment.
February 24, 2006. Drip, drip. That is really annoying. As I stood frozen in that tiny hospital room, unable to move, all I could hear was that incessant dripping sound. It hadn’t stopped for what seemed like forever. I had no idea what it was, or where it was coming from, and honestly, I didn’t particularly care. As irritating as it was, though, it was still something I could focus on. Something besides the hushed, tearful voices of my mom and the nurse, which seeped in through the closed door. Something besides the goosebumps that peppered by bare arms (I should’ve brought a jacket, but in my haste to get here I’d forgotten). Something besides the tight, burning sensation in my throat and behind my eyes, warning me of the flood that threatened to gush out. And something, anything, besides the sight of my father’s once-strong body lying on the bed, frail and lifeless. However, I couldn’t help myself. My eyes were irrevocably drawn to it. It was the first time I’d focused on him since I arrived at the hospital an hour ago.
I guess until that moment, I’d never fully realized how different he was from the father I had known as a little girl, the one who lifted weights every day and who spent most of his free time fixing up our house. The one I thought would always be there, protecting and supporting me. The man I see now is different. He had been for some time, I guess. His cheeks were gaunt; the muscles in his arms, so impressive a lifetime ago, had disappeared, and the vitality that once glowed on his skin was gone forever.
Suddenly, for the tiniest moment, eons before the word “forever” even finished crossing my mind, I had an epiphany. I’d always known nobody lived forever, but until this speck in time, I’d never grasped the concept in its entirety. The only other death I’d personally known was my grandfather’s. That was when I was in third grade—old enough to be affected, but still too young to think the thoughts that were currently racing through my mind at warp speed. Thoughts of how my father would never get the chance to walk me down the aisle at my wedding, of how he would never get to see me graduate, of how he would never meet his future grandchildren. Only now had I been confronted with the hopeless mortality of mankind.
No matter how much money you have, or how great your accomplishments are, or how stunning your beauty is, the truth still remains. Those things won’t be here forever. Money can be lost, accomplishments can be forgotten, and beauty can fade. Most people don’t want to dwell on this fact, and they shouldn’t, but it should be there in the back of their minds. Don’t take anything for granted, because it might no longer be there when you look for it later. Instead of focusing on dispensable material goods, focus on living. Life was meant to be lived, and at the end of the long road, when someone asks a person if there is anything he wished to have done but didn’t, he should be able to respond “No” with conviction.
My father was one of those people. He lived his life the way he wanted to. I can think of nothing he’d have regretted not doing during his life. In a way, I guess he’d foreshadowed his own death, especially after over half a dozen hospitalizations in three months for various issues with his diabetes and liver problems. Perhaps that is why he lived so freely, even when he could barely move. He knew his time was limited. The last time I’d seen him conscious was a week prior to his passing. He’d been in so much pain he couldn’t get out of the car, but he still joked around with me and told me his plans for seeing the Beijing Olympics. That’s why his death had shocked me so much. It was hard to believe someone who’d been laughing one day could lapse into a coma and, later, the oblivion of death, a mere few days later.
All these thoughts crowded inside me until I felt like I couldn’t breathe. They weren’t quite concrete—they were more abstract in that they didn’t form complete sentences or defined ideas in my head. I felt them, and instinctively, I knew they would change my life. From this day on, I vowed, I won’t be afraid of taking risks. I wouldn’t, as trite as this may sound, live every day as if were my last. Some day, it could be. Life is unpredictable.
I finally forced myself to move. I walked closer to the bed and stared ay my father’s face. Gaunt as it was, it looked peaceful. I gently covered one of his hands with mine, silently thanking him for the lesson he’d unknowingly taught me. My tears finally spilled from eyes, each one chasing the previous down my cheeks. It felt good, like I was purging myself of my old way of thinking to make room for my new mindset. I stayed in that position until my mom came back inside and whispered, “It’s time to go.” I followed her silently out of the room, casting one last glance at my father.
In the background, the dripping sound ceased.