The important things in life

I have an acquaintance with a life sentence!

She has received the news none of us want to hear. The illness she has is not curable and the time scale is very short. Three young children wander about the house bewildered because they know something is wrong, yet they do not know what it is. Mum is prone to crying and dad and granny are constantly trying to reassure her.

Mum realises that she will never see her children grow up, not be there for many more birthdays, or family celebrations, or to comfort them in times of need. She worries that they might forget her. Or that they will remember her as the person always lying under a rug on the couch crying.

She has baby name tags, early pictures, bootees, baby toys and locks of hair in a treasure box. I have suggested to her to have three boxes, one for each child with their name on it, in her own handwriting. Then place the items for each child in their special box. Next I suggested that she write letters to each child in turn.

“Start writing now”, I said; “beginning with how you felt when you heard that they were expected, the planning and preparations for their arrival”. I suggested she tell them how special they are and about the little things that made her heart sing. Write about her feelings for them now, and of all the hopes and dreams she carries for them.

Put each letter in an envelope and seal it, Put each child’s name, and the date when you want them to get it, on the front. Think about this date, 18th, 21st birthdays of even on your death.

What better gift can a mother give!

While writing this I received an email from a dear friend. The attachment was a story:

The Mayonnaise Jar and 2 Cups of Coffee

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognise that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things…. Your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favourite passions— and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else— the small stuff. “If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and put out the rubbish. Take care of the golf balls first- the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked.”

The coffee just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.

23 thoughts on “The important things in life

  1. I think the suggestion you made for your friend is a wonderful idea and would be a great comfort to her children. Knowing your life is nearing the end, especially when you have young children must be one of the hardest things to come to terms with. This happened to a friend of my daughter last year.

  2. My thoughts go out to your friend and to her children…my youngerst sister was eleven when we lost our father and fifteen when our mother died. My wife was brilliant in giving her a home…. now ,as you know Grannymar, we have discovered a “lost” branch of our family and 48 year old Jo is excited. But oh how we wish our mother had left us some communication.

    A lot of mixed up feelings here.

    As for the story…it’s one I have sometimes told to students myself…I change the beverage according to the age of my audience.


  3. Magpie Start to blog, you have a mountain of Material to write about. I will be one of the first to visit.

  4. Grannymar

    I can but add in response…

    you are a credit to the concept of hospice care.

    I know that one of the many attractions of your blog, is the way in which it epitomises the ‘real’ meaning in life. With the hectic pace of life these days, it’s really good to be able to touch base with reality.

    Take a bow, GM 🙂

  5. Steph, thank you.

    I try to write about life as I know it. Hopefully it is of benefit to the folk who drop by.

  6. I am sory for your friend, and you gave her good advice. It would also be nice to add to their boxes a video or audio tape of her speaking to them, so they can have her voice to remember forever. How sad that is.

    My best friend’s daughter-in-law has a son who has a cancer in his eye, around the optic nerve, so they can’t operate. She fell a month ago and broke her tailbone and has to wear a brace. A week later, she found a lump in her breast, and the surgery is set for Wed. He mom died from colon cancer, so they are almost certain her lump will be malignant.Stories like these make the rest of us more grateful for our lives, don’t they?

  7. Judy I find that no matter how bad I feel, if I go out I meet or hear of someone worse than I am. If I stay indoors the pain or worry seems to fill the space.
    Sharing a problem certainly halves it!

  8. That’s a wonderful suggestion for dealing with such awful news. It’s certainly important to be doing something positive and life-affirming rather than moping and brooding and getting depressed. I think if I were in that situation I’d want to do all the things I enjoy while I still had the chance – like travelling and hill-walking. And maybe things I’ve never done at all like sky-diving.

  9. Wonderful advice you gave Grannymar. What an incredibly sad situation. My thoughts go out to them.

    I first heard the jar thing on a week of corporate training – Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Steven Covey uses the same analogy. Indeed, the Franklin-Covey planners have forms in them to plan your “rocks” for the week.

  10. GrannyMar you’ve done it again. I have little ‘treasures’ stashed away and haven’t got around to actually putting them into a suitable container. You’ve motivated me to get on with it. I guess my blog is my legacy as well. Comiserations to your friend, my heart goes out to her and her family. If anything good comes out of this, it’s the fact that she has some time to prepare and make the most of what time is left.

  11. Betty, Nick, Deborah & Baino thank you for your wishes and comments. We all think we’ll go on forever and put off dealing with things.

  12. Things like this always make me think how trivial the things we usually stress out about (finance, work, bad weather) really are. Life is precious, every single moment of it!

  13. Grannymar, I robbed your post and didn’t leave a comment. A little too emotional to be polite, I think!

    Your advice is the best – I flicked across an RTE programme about mothers preparing to leave their children – memory boxes like you suggested, roleplaying funerals. That’s it though, I had to turn it off, it would have been a torture to watch.

    I’m so sorry about your friend. I hope she finds support and solace. I know a good homoeopath in south Dublin who does a lot of work with termainally ill patients – she comes from a good place as she’s recovered from two serious cancers herself.

  14. Quickroute ~ at times we all need a little jolt to keep us on track.

    Jo ~ welcome to on board. No p[roblem you spread the word and hopefully it helped others. Thanks for the recommendation but we are in Co Antrim.

  15. Talk about putting your own woes into perspective~

    I agree with the video idea. I listen to a recording of the boy laughing and find peace in it.
    Maybe a special day with each child individually doing something the child has always wanted to do. That lasting memory of one on one time with mom is priceless, especially if it’s followed up with pictures and a memoir of the day from mom focusing on how much she enjoyed her time with that child.

    If she wants anything scrapbooked I will gladly help out. I’ve seen books made for individuals with memos and things written in. Beautiful.
    Wish her peace.

  16. Stephanie thanks for the ideas. Scrapbooking where the mum can write and physically leave a mark and a video where she can leave her voice and smile are excellent ideas.

    keep smiling!

  17. Pingback: The Day « DZ-015 - The Half-Arsed Blog Of RTE 2FM’s Rick O’Shea

  18. I have to echo what Rick O Shea said in his post. Certainly made me think about my day.

    I’ll pray for the family GM. I’ll pray for all those connected, I’ll pray for the hospital workers, the doctors, nurses and staff and I’ll pray for you.

  19. Thanks to Rick and Darragh.

    Darragh in the every hustle and bustle we all need a little jog to make us think about our lives.

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  21. This is a very informative post, i was searching in google for Colon Cancer and came across this post. My niece is suffering from Cervical Cancer, information mention in this article will greatly help me in offering her some advice
    thank you

  22. Welcome Laura.

    I am pleased you found this post helpful for your niece. It did me good to reread it today. Thank you!

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