I'm not exactly what you'd call a "church person." I don't have anything against it. I actually usually have a decent time when I do attend. But, although I was raised Christian, going to Church every Sunday morning never became a part of my routine as a child. And, by the time I reached adulthood — and figuring that frequent prayer and the occasional viewing of "Jesus Christ Superstar" was enough — I didn't really see the benefit in making it one.
A few months ago, though, a prolonged (and still burgeoning) existential crisis convinced me to start attending more regularly. I'm still not an every Sunday church attendee, but I've gone from going once every couple of years to once every couple of weeks.
I mentioned my newfound church attendance to my mom a couple months ago. She seemed happy about it, and ended the conversation by saying "Hey, the next time you think about going, let me know and I'll come with you. If you don't mind, of course."
Fast-forward a couple weeks. It's 11:30 on a Sunday morning, and I'm getting dressed in preparation for the 11:45 service at a nearby church when I remember that my mom wanted to attend service with me. I think about having to drive 10 minutes to pick her up, wait for her to get dressed, and drive all the way back to a church that is literally two minutes away from my place and conclude that I'd just not call. '"Next week, I'll just make sure to remember to let her know the night before, so she'll have enough time." I told myself as I walked out of the door, adding "Plus, she's probably sleeping in or watching Melissa Harris-Perry anyway."
Her health started to worsen the next week. She was diagnosed with COPD a couple years ago and had been taking oxygen while she slept ever since, but a recent bout of headaches and fatigue caused her doctor to change her medication. Now, she had to carry oxygen with her everywhere, and combined with the joint and back pain she also started experiencing, sitting on a wooden pew for 90 minutes just wasn't going to happen. There would be no taking her to church "next week." Or the week after that.
Watching the Hurricane Sandy coverage and hearing stories about the devastation reminded me of how much we take for granted. Even something as simple as turning on the light in our bathrooms and starting a hot shower is a luxury that doesn't seem particularly luxurious until it's taken away from you. It's not our fault, really. Once you get used to things, you get used to them, and we can't help but forget how tenuous even our most mundane acts happen to be. But, while it's excusable to take things just as electricity, heat, and your car's engine — all replaceable and/or easily repairable objects — for granted, it's not as excusable to think of loved ones in that same way.
I took my mom and my mom's health for granted, and today, as she prepares for her next round of chemotherapy, I can't help but think about moments with her I'd like to have back; instances where I didn't take advantage of our time and her health; experiences where I didn't fully appreciate the fact that it could have been the last time we'd experience that together.
I'm writing this today because I do not want any of you to be plagued with these same type of thoughts. Let this be a reminder to make that call to your parents you were gonna make last week but forgot about because of work and never really got around to making; an urge to plan that weekend trip to see your grandmother you're unsure about making because "Well, I'm gonna see her around Christmas anyway."; a call to let those loved and appreciated know they're loved and appreciated.
I'm confident my mom will continue to respond well to the chemo. Optimistic, even. Maybe this is unwise, but I can't fathom any other way to be. Maybe I just don't want to. Either way, I'm even more confident that the days of taking her and her health for granted are over. Maybe there won't be a "next week," but there always will be a "right now."