I guess it’s my turn.
Every great columnist I’ve followed has published an essay like the one I am about to write, and I knew this day would come, and it’s as hard as I imagined.
My mom, at the age of 75, is gone. She passed on July 23, 2019, at 12:05 a.m.
In thinking about the lessons we learn throughout our life, my mom — a teacher — might have left me with her best lesson.
Making the Most of Every Minute
As I thought about it, I found a real significance in the day and time of her death. Especially since it is the day that follows July 22, Marissa Kanoya’s (my daughter) birthday.
My mom loved July 22. She probably started planning for Marissa’s birthday months in advance. Whether we were planning a party together, or she was putting together a box of goodies to send to San Diego, she was always planning ahead so she was not scrambling at the end and the gift always made it on time.
Sadly this year, her health likely prevented her from getting everything together. In fact, the window of time in which she would have likely sent a gift was during the days she was in the hospital.
With Mom in the hospital and the days inching closer to the 22nd, my family began to worry she would pass on a date that brought her so much joy. In fact, there was discussion about how we could use medicine and machines to sustain her until the 23rd.
However, my family agreed that that was not right. Why mess with nature? When the body is ready to go, just let it go.
As it turns out, on her own volition, she waited until the next day … the 23rd of July.
I believe she waited because she did not want to cut short her favorite day of the year. She lasted all 24 hours of the 22nd. And that’s a better gift than anything that would have arrived in the mail.
Even better, she gave herself five more minutes — five minutes into July 23rd. And those five minutes are what I want to talk about.
The Power of Five Minutes
Five minutes is commonplace when it comes to a window of time. We let a roast in the oven go five more minutes to ensure it is cooked completely. We text people to let them know we will be five minutes late. And when we are feeling overwhelmed, we’ll take a five-minute break to take a breath and reset.
Five minutes can seem like forever, and it can also seem like five seconds.
If you’ve ever run an aggressive pace for five minutes, you know that seems endless. Conversely, spending five minutes with someone — whether they are about to die or just going away for a while — those minutes will never seem long enough.
Often we will lament that there are not enough hours in the day. We’ll say, “If I just had five more minutes …”
Well, if you did have five more minutes, what would you do?
Would you do something for yourself? Would you do something for someone else? Would you hand out praise? Would you complain about
something or someone? Would you gossip? Would you spend that time with another person?
Or, would you spend it with the memory of someone you can no longer spend five minutes with?
I wonder what my mom did with those five minutes?
The cynic would think a person, incapacitated and void of movement and the ability to speak spent those five minutes doing nothing. But I’m certain she had many thoughts, she always did.
She squeezed every ounce out of her body, surviving lymphoma, breast cancer and a bone marrow transplant. She fought to survive multiple times, and I don’t think she coasted to this finish line.
In those final five minutes, I’m certain she did something for herself and someone else. I’m sure she handed out praise. I know she spent it with people she knew she only had five minutes with. And I bet she shared it with friends and family that passed before her, getting ready to see them once again.
I am confident there was no complaining or lament. Taking time to complain or worry about things that have already passed is just wasted time. And ain’t nobody got time for that.
Just Five More Minutes
So for all those that say, “I just wish I had five more minutes in the day,” I’m here to say you do.
Think about five minutes that you might be spending on things less than productive. How can you pivot to do something good and meaningful, the way my mother did?
Let that be the takeaway of her death. Her passing has me feeling sad, but it also has given me a different perspective on how we can positively spend our time with ourselves and each other.