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The "Wu Word" Blog

Borrowed Time


From the distance of me walking into the tiny town’s post office, there was this familiar postal woman clerk who I remembered and chit chatted with from ten years ago.  She is standing in her familiar behind-the-counter spot.

Time is a funny and fascinating thing. The minutes only keep ticking forward, but it is as though some things and people never change.  Like this woman.  She looked exactly the same.  Not a change since ten years ago.  Same long blonde hair.  Same gold glasses perched on the end of her nose. Same hands that were hidden in blue latex gloves to handle the mail with care.

Time must have been so kind to her in these last ten years for her to look the same and have the same routine and steady job.

Or, so I thought.

However, when I walk up to the counter to hand her the light purple, I immediately noticed a great and grave difference.  The brightness in her blue-gray eyes is gone. Her smile that could warm up the coldest of winters is replaced with a hard straight line. Time had not been kind to her. Life has hurt her. When she confessed to me that her son had died early this year and was now resting in peace with her other son who died years ago, I wanted to knock down the counter in between us and envelope her in a big hug.

Then she said, “No more time left with them.  I wish I could have the time back with them.”

I was quite stunned by her openness in revealing the death of her sons and deep grief that had now seemed to made a home in her.  I wondered what would make this woman feel so comfortable to share with me.  It was probably because I shared with her that I was at my most vulnerable of recovering from this hysterectomy procedure that had took me by surprise and taken on a life of its own in these last couple of months of my own life. When we are at our most weakest, the greatest strength of sharing comes into play.

Most people who are told of such a tragedy as death immediately say, “I’m so sorry.” Then there is the silence that hangs awkwardly in the air and the struggle to change the subject begins.

Rather, I asked the woman, “You do not have to tell me about your son, but how did he die?”

The words came out of me. I wished I could take time back to take the words back.  What if I had made the grief that was clearly swimming in her ready to drown her?

She did not look shocked that I asked. In fact, there was a flicker of a light in her eyes when I inquired.  I call that light hope.  She said that it was a heart attack.  He was in his early 50’s.  It was completely unexpected. 

I told her that I wanted to give her a hug.  I wanted to tell her that, if I could, I would give her the time back.  Her firmly lined lips went into a small smile.

One of my other neighbors had also recently shared with me the value and preciousness of time. She is a mother of two young children.  She gave up her high-powered and full-time nurse managerial position for part-time and less pay just to be with her children.

She said to me while she was so generously vacuuming my floors that I could not do, “I can’t get this time back with them, Mary.
Pay me less money and give me more and all the time in the world and with my children and all the people I love.”

Many of my neighbors who were unfamiliar to me have suddenly jumped in so graciously to help me out with light household chores, cleaning, and grocery shopping that I’ve been struggling with.
They have been my saving graces as I try to readjust to my living alone and independent status that I’ve always taken pride in.
But, one of the struggles that no one is able to help me out with is my struggle with time.

I keep thinking of how I was physically stronger before the surgery, and when fatigue, abdominal pangs, and weakness were not even in my thought process. Sure, I know and believe that all of this will go away and that the worst parts and weeks are behind me and that I will be even stronger, because, as the saying goes “Time Heals All Wounds.” But, time keeps on ticking by with me contemplating to who I was, who I am becoming, and how all of these past days will lead to who I will eventually be.

I am in the 7th week of my surgical recovery.  The seven weeks have gone by in a blur.  In my mind, I was in the operating room yesterday, blinked my eyes, and here I am now over a month later.
How does time do that?  Within these seven weeks, I’ve gone back in time in the sanctuary of my parents’ home and reuniting with people I had not seen in years.  Yet, the minutes and moments have also just marched forward into the future to new people that I have met, new stories I have heard, and new people that I have forged a small friendship with.

To all my people from the past and all these unexpected people that were in my future who have played their special roles, I am now seeing that we are all just living on borrowed time. We wish to rewind and get back time or to stop time. Our time revolves around the people we love the most. Our time is money. Our time is precious.  We only give our time forward with what we choose to do with our time and who we choose to be with. We only give our time forward with every intent and hope to make the moments with ourselves and those we love magical and memorable. And, to me, the saddest thing is to keep planning and trying to fast forward time and to keep thinking of the future time that is only an unexplainable question mark. It is one thing to look forward to the future time, but it is another thing to keep calculating, planning, and trying to control the future.  Borrowed time is making the most of the time you have for the here and now.

How often have you felt when time stood still?  How often have you wanted to stop time to savor what or who changes or is there in our life? Or rewind time to make things right when everything went wrong? What if we were all just to live by the borrowed time that we have been given?  Wouldn’t we simply treasure this borrowed time all the more?

I’ve been counting the weeks since my surgery and discovery of the mass. I’ve been projecting into what will lie ahead after my surgery, such as returning to work and the logistics involved with this. I’ve been contemplating who I was. I’ve been thinking of all the people who have come across my way during this time. But, I haven’t been fulfilling or living my borrowed time. Perhaps the time to even try to start that is now.

Until we meet again.

Keep smilin’,
Miss Mary ;-)


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Time is the one thing that we can never get back. Your anecdote is a perfect example of "we only get to know how much a person means to us when they are gone." Use the time we have to spend enough time and express our love and appreciation because we don't know when our time is up. The feeling of regret is a hard burden to carry because the only way we can get rid of that regret is by getting back the time we should have spent with that person. But time, once it passes, will never return. Life is short. We should be doing what we want to do and spend time with people that mean a lot to us. We are not going to be given a second chance. And time travel is impossible at this time.
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