Death has been on my mind a lot recently.
Yesterday, I went through a whole lot of forwards that Daddy sends me periodically, to remind me, I suspect, that I have his book for editing – as if I could forget. (I was also getting reminders on Facebook – in the form of game requests – but then I discovered that it was Zach playing on Daddy’s account, which was a relief, since, young at heart though the senior Mr Monteiro is, I could not imagine him playing SimCity Social and Social Wars!) Anyway, tucked in among the photographs of exotic places, and the funny pictures for Zach, and the Kings College choir singing Handel’s Messiah, was a letter from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombia’s illustrious Nobel Laureate for literature, written to his friends as he withdrew from public life as his terminal illness progressed.
Here are excerpts:
“If God, for a second, forgot what I have become and granted me a little bit more of life, I would use it to the best of my ability.
“I wouldn’t, possibly, say everything that is in my mind, but I would be more thoughtful of all I say.
“I would sleep little, I would dream more, because I know that for every minute that we close our eyes, we waste 60 seconds of light.
“I would walk while others stop; I would awake while others sleep.
“To all men, I would say how mistaken they are when they think that they stop falling in love when they grow old, without knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love.
“I would give wings to children, but I would leave it to them to learn how to fly by themselves.
“I have learned so much with you all, I have learned that everybody wants to live on top of the mountain, without knowing that true happiness is obtained in the journey taken and the form used to reach the top of the hill.
“I have learned that when a newborn baby holds, with its little hand, his father’s finger, it has trapped him for the rest of his life.
“I have learned that a man has the right and obligation to look down at another man, only when that man needs help to get up from the ground.
“Say always what you feel, not what you think. If I knew that today is the last time that that I am going to see you asleep, I would hug you with all my strength and I would pray to the Lord to let me be the guardian angel of your soul.
“If I knew that these are the last moments to see you, I would say ‘I love you’.
“There is always tomorrow, and life gives us another opportunity to do things right, but in case I am wrong, and today is all that is left to me, I would love to tell you how much I love you and that I will never forget you.
“Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone, young or old...
“Keep your loved ones near you; tell them in their ears and to their faces how much you need them and love them...
“Nobody will know you for your secret thought(s). Ask the Lord for wisdom and strength to express them.
“Show your friends and loved ones how important they are to you.
“...If you don’t do it today…tomorrow will be like yesterday, and if you never do it, it doesn’t matter either, the moment to do it is now.
“For you, with much love,
Gabriel Garcia Marquez”
I need small, frequent reminders of my mortality (as regular readers of this blog would know). They serve to reiterate the fleeting nature of time, and the inconsequence of some of the things I tend to think of as important. They kick me into reassessing what I am doing with my life – whether I am celebrating enough what I take for granted: the presence of family and friends, the joy of a simple singing session around the piano in my in-laws’ house, the fact that I am busy because I am lucky to be so. That I get to travel when others don’t have that chance. That my son is still innocent enough to tell me very seriously that we mustn’t go trekking in our boxers because our sperm count will go down (he is now relieved to know that girls don’t have testicles but embarrassed that his mother had to tell him that). That I have the love of a good man.But they also remind me that reassessment is only the first part; that I need to act on some things – regretfully drop from my life the friend who snubs me repeatedly, accept that some friendships are not equal but still worthwhile, and act on the items of my bucket list that I need to do now.
I hope Marquez’s letter will kick-start you into thinking too. “I like sleeping, it’s like death without the commitment,” someone tweeted recently. Sadly, I have people in my life for whom each new day is a bonus. For the rest of us, each morning we wake up, we get a new chance to enhance our life – it’s time to take it.
Full text of the letter available here: http://www.prrb.ca/articles/issue08-marquez.html