Taking Others For Granted

Saturday, January 25, 2003

It seemed, recently, I had been a regular visitor at numerous funeral homes to pay respects to deceased friends and family, and mourn personally, as well. I reasoned death seemed to come at "appropriate times" (considering age and state of health) for some, but felt others were snatched prematurely from this world. Scripture states, however, that "There is a right time for everything: A time to be born and a time to die," (Ecclesiastes 3:2). Evidently I benefited from those moments of contemplation on matters of life and death. Because while watching a television movie recently my consciousness was stirred by a stunning remark that may have positively changed my life.

Attending the numerous wakes and funerals caused me to realize I needed to treat everyone, particularly those holding a special place in my heart, as if all time spent with them may be the last. And consequently, I ought to question if I demonstrated the love and caring I genuinely felt, or assumed others knew the depth of my feelings. Did I take their presence for granted?

It seems I mentally retrace the steps along my life's journey whenever I attend wakes or funerals. The pattern was repeated a few weeks ago when I attended a wake for a young husband with children. I pondered that although one is unaware when death will come, the world would, indeed, be God's Kingdom on earth if each person interacted with others like each day may be his last. As I continued to meditate on the reality of loved ones traveling from this physical world to a better spiritual one, I recalled the statement I had heard during a television program. "We take our loved ones for granted. We do not miss them until they are gone." And then, "People are like the air -- one does not miss it until he is short of breath and cannot breathe."

Often, it's those with whom we interact most frequently that are most often neglected. People performing daily, seemingly ordinary tasks in life will be missed most. I wondered how many children are seldom told how much they are loved? For guests are usually treated with more respect and appreciation than those closest to us.

One particular memory stood out as I contemplated taking people for granted. As I was being reared, various cousins would come to visit. It seemed, to me, while they were guests at our house, my brother and I mattered little. Because my parents insisted we allow them to enjoy the first turn when games were played, share our toys "excessively" and practice other seemingly unfair etiquette. Even though I knew I should exercise politeness and good manners, I also remember feeling unloved -- my parents cared for my cousins far more than my brother and me. However, I doubt my parents were aware of my feelings of abandonment. Rather, they were attempting to insure my cousins enjoyed their stay.

Since I experienced those feelings of rejection, hopefully, I made a special effort to insure my children knew of their importance in my life-even when guests were present.

Hopefully, I shall remember to treat people like each moment may be his last, or my last, and consequently cease taking others for granted. How would you treat people if you knew each encounter with them might be your last?

Ellen Shuck is director of religious education at St. Mary's Cathedral Parish in Cape Girardeau.

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