My friends dropped me off after a happy hour that became a happy evening. I plopped down on a lawn chair in my parents backyard, and took in the peaceful lull of a summer night. I had moved back home after graduating from Kansas State, and was working two jobs while completing classes for my teacher certification. With my nonstop schedule I was feeling more certifiable than certified.
My youngest sister, Katie, was still awake and wandered out to join me. I was fueled by Miller Lite and filled with knowledge. She sat down next to me, and I began to impart my wisdom. Katie was 6 years younger, and a willing student until I insisted she dance with me when, “Every Little Step” came on the radio.
I am not sure why we took out the fancy glasses, but we did. I explained that life was too short not to use the fancy glasses. Fancy glasses were not about what you poured in them, but the fact you took them out of the china hutch and used them. We always tell ourselves later. Later we will celebrate, later we will do this or that. Later. That night we made a pact to use fancy glasses often. When Katie graduated from high school, and left for The University of Georgia I gave her a set of her very own fancy glasses. I told her to use them in good health, and she did. I was proud.
Katie graduated from UGA in four years, and started a master’s program in pediatric audiology. I was now married, living in Alaska and the mother of a sweet baby girl. Ellie was 8 weeks old when we boarded a plane back to Georgia to meet my family. Katie drove from Athens to meet her new niece, and instantly fell in love. I will never forget sharing my first-born with people who loved her before they ever held her. Katie was happy, but she felt terrible. What we thought was a nasty virus turned out to be a devastating disease. A few days after our visit Katie was diagnosed with stage four Burkitt’s Lymphoma. She was quickly transferred to Emory, started chemo and died two days later. Her battle lasted 6 short days. We never had a chance to take out the fancy glasses. We lost our later.
The death of my sister broke me in ways I did not know I could be broken. In a two and a half month span I experienced the happiest and saddest moments of my life, but in grieving Katie’s death I learned about my life. I learned to appreciate what I had previously taken for granted. For each year my child ages, my sister does not. It is my constant reminder that life is for living.
Katie lived her 23 years to their fullest capacity. She was all in, full tilt. I do my best to honor her memory by making the most of every day. I still have plenty of days I wish I could redo, but I have learned to seize moments and not lose my later.
Don’t wait for later. Say it, do it and never pass up a chance to take out the fancy glasses.
I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine. ~ Neil Armstrong