Five years ago, a French friend explained to me what it meant to “make time for time.” It’s a lovely expression for an all-too-rare practice: making time to appreciate the time we have on this earth. The occasion was a visit to France with my mother.
When my mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness, my husband asked what she wanted to do with the time she had left. She chose a barge trip in France. (Who knew?) My husband, brother and I took her on the trip of a lifetime—six days on the small, luxurious private barge L’Esperance, meandering along a beautiful Southern France canal while we enjoyed being together.
This past week eleven members of my family were all together for Thanksgiving in Marion, Massachusetts, cooking, eating, drinking, and washing hundreds of dishes. Everyone pitched in so no one was over-burdened. By sharing tasks, we had time to do what we like best: taking walks in the frigid air, assembling a jigsaw puzzle, watching football, Louis C.K. and Comedians in Cars Drinking Coffee, and talking, talking, talking. This sounds too good to be true, but it was really like this. The difference between this family gathering and most of the others was time.
Half of my heritage is Irish Catholic, so I am inclined to look at the world as if something terrible is going to happen any minute. If it isn’t a natural disaster such as an earthquake, it’s the loss of someone I dearly love. I can’t prevent natural disasters but as far as personal losses go, I feel strongly that I need more time—time to clear up misunderstandings, to make amends, time to make sure those I love know what they mean to me. This week I got some of that time.
Mom lived an unexpected three years after that trip to France, long enough to return to L’Esperance for one more barge trip. While we considered Mom’s unusually long survival a gift, her better gift to us was that we, as a family, learned the value of making time for time.