Build a business, but don’t miss the swimming gala
I was at my son’s swimming gala yesterday and while I was watching him swim, time froze for a moment. I was focusing hard on fighting back the thoughts of anxiety caused by all the unfinished tasks on my PC that awaited me back at the office.
But that’s not why time froze. I saw him swimming and looking up at me after a race, seeking acknowledgment from his father, just to make sure that he was doing OK and that I was in approval of his progress. I nodded and saw him blend back into the crowd of friends.
Later last night my lovely wife and I went out with some friends. We planned to have a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant and then to watch a show by the famed South African artist and foodie, Nataniel.
After ordering drinks and welcoming our friends (my wife and I believe we were separated from them at birth), my lady friend told us the story of her week. After 40 odd years of living in a 5km radius from her mom and younger sisters ( I think there are 3 of them), she had to say her final goodbyes to her little sister and her loved family who had decided to emigrate to New Zealand for good.
First, she told how they had extended the goodbyes by spending the entire November and December at events to celebrate the couple. First with colleagues, then with school kids (they are both teachers for over 20 years) then school kids who they had taught in earlier years, then friends and then family. Many dinners, breakfasts and lunches were held in an attempt to finish that last conversation before they left. To make sure they said the things they always wanted to say but didn’t.
And last weekend just before they finally flew out, the cousins (their kids) all got together and had to say their goodbyes. And here is where she started crying, talking about how distraught the kids were and how they all talked about how far it is and when they will see each other again. 10+ years of living close to each other and being able to visit at any time had come to an end.
With tears now pouring from her eyes she spoke about her mother of 70 years who cried uncontrollably and could not tear herself away from her young daughter who was leaving forever. My friend tried to wipe the unrelenting torrent of tears from her beautiful face (she is one of the most beautiful women I know) and then she said the worst was when her little sister Whatsapped her on Monday and said something like “We’re here and we’re safe, but we’re scared”. And then she broke down again.
She wanted so desperately to save her little sister from this pain. If she could, she would’ve traded places with her in a second to take that pain upon herself, but it was not hers to trade. These wounds were raw and my eyes welled up.
And then time froze again.
I woke up early this morning and I just could not stop thinking about her and her family. It was such a sad story, but with sadness, I felt so much gratitude. Gratitude for knowing them. Gratitude for being able to witness their lives. Gratitude for being able to see an example of love in action. Gratitude for seeing the sacrifice of a family for the greater good. Gratitude for being trusted with those emotions. And gratitude for feeling mine.
And then I realised why time froze…
It froze because at that moment I realised, these precious events with my son, my wife and my friends, could never happen again. They were once in a lifetime events and could not be bought back at any cost. If you missed them, they would be gone forever. And you would not have the memories. You would have nothing to remember.
This family had so many memories that they would never forget. And I know they have them because they never let life’s opportunities and disappointments stop them from creating them. They had built a family album of photographs in their minds that no one could erase and that would knit them all together forever.
No amount of time and distance could break those bonds.
They would never forget…
My two-year-old daughter knocks on my office door.
And time freezes again.