This morning, while I was sitting in the park I received a text from my wife that a neighbor in our old neighborhood had passed away after a long battle with an assortment of ailments. We were not close friends and we’d pretty much lost touch since we moved to Anaheim Hills 15 years ago. Muri would occasionally run into his wife in a store and we would hear bits and pieces about him from mutual acquaintances. His son, who we knew as Jay-Jay was probably my daughter’s best neighborhood friend and he played on several teams that I coached, so we saw a lot of each other. Besides, he was also our kids’ pediatrician … Dr. Chuck to them. He was always there for them, whether in his house or in his office, and his gentle humorous way made them trust him, whether they were there to have booster shot or a broken bone set.
The news hit me harder than I thought it would. You might think that the passing of a contemporary makes me sad because it reminds me of my own mortality but you’d be wrong. Being reminded of my own mortality makes me determined to use the time I have wisely. Lately, though, every passing seems like another missed opportunity, an opportunity to tell someone they made a difference in my life. I suspect that at some level, Dr. Chuck knew how many children … and parents … benefited from his care. But it would have been nice to tell him. I have no idea what an afterlife looks like, whether it’s streets paved with gold or a giant family room where we get to sit around with the people we’ve missed. I don’t believe in a God that burns souls for eternity but I do expect we have to face up to our misdeeds in some way or other. If we do, I hope that we also get to feel the gratitude of those we’ve helped in life and left behind. And I hope our friend can feel what I never got to express in life wherever he is now – Thank you, Dr. Chuck. You made a difference in our lives.
It’s so easy to take for granted the good people bring to our lives and assume they know that we appreciate them. That we like them. That we love them. There will always be time to tell them later. But there won’t. Tell them … now.