For years, I have kept a yellowing piece of paper that was originally hand-typed, but was photocopied and passed around the office where I worked at the time, back in the late 1970s or early 80s.
It’s a rather famous article by the brilliant women’s humor columnist, Erma Bombeck. Contrary to urban legend, she was not at death’s doorstep when she wrote it. It was published thirty eight years ago — long before her breast cancer diagnosis, and before she went public about her life-long kidney disease condition that eventually took her life.
This week, I happened (yeah, right — coincidence!) to run across it the same day I received this photo from my dad in the mail.
The picture is of my mother and me in 1992. We are at our family’s cabin (Owl’s Nest I) in the mountains of North Carolina. I still have the coat she is wearing, and wear it myself on the coldest days.
The other snapshot Daddy sent shows how utterly freezing we were that day, but laughing just the same.
Of course, I have been thinking of my mom quite a lot, since only a few years after this picture was snapped, she died of breast cancer. I spent the first two years of my marriage commuting between here in the Triangle area and Columbus, NC to help Dad take care of her.
She loved this essay, and I do, too, now more than ever. I hope you will find it inspiring as well.
Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything.
My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.
If I had my life to live over again I would have waxed less and listened more.
Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I’d have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.
I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.
I would have eaten popcorn in the “good” living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.
I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.
I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.
I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.
I would have cried and laughed less while watching television … and more while watching real life.
I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.
I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.
I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day.
I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn’t show soil/ guaranteed to last a lifetime.
When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner.”
There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.
© Erma Bombeck, Dec. 1979