Tonelli Wedding, 10/10/09, Chicago

I’ve been reminded several times in the last week of how quickly life can change — how picture perfect can morph into a nightmare without the benefit of waking. There are daily headlines that should serve as ample reminders to this thought, but news becomes tedious and easy to ignore. Children are starving, bombs drop on wedding parties, people take out their anger and confusion with guns, horrific medical news can land in your lap at any second.

We recently had a medical scare in our group of friends. A diagnosis arrived in an emergency room while I watched one of my best friends buckle with the news. We surrounded her for the moment and promised the news could be wrong. We kept a stiff upper lip until her mother could arrive and we could leave to gather the troops and supplies necessary to tackle this latest challenge.  (Those supplies would mostly come in carbohydrate and Blockbuster forms. Sudden stays in the hospital seem to make us all want to feed others and be fed. And if you can watch a good movie to pass the time, then so be it.)

It wasn’t until we reached the first steps outside of the emergency room on our way to gather these supplies that we let the emotion of the previous hour take effect. I wailed. I stuck my arms out to my sides, threw my head back and let out a scream that would have impressed an orthodox Jew in Jerusalem at the wall. Tears poured down my face and I only stopped my dramatic performance because I couldn’t figure out what the noise was coming from a few feet away. Through my sobs, I heard my companion wailing even louder. We were stunned.

Thankfully, a few days later, we would be screaming shouts of joy as the diagnostics revealed a far less serious situation. One that can be treated. One that isn’t life threatening. One that I wouldn’t wish on anyone but I was praying for with all my might considering the other options available.

It doesn’t take a few days in the hospital for me to realize what a unique group of people are in my daily life. And yet, I can help but marvel at our strength when we rally. By the time our friends left the hospital, their car was overflowing with food, gifts and notes of goodwill. They’d arrive home to find another casserole campaign underway, to help them get through the next few days. While I wasn’t the recipient of these great acts of kindness, I couldn’t be more thankful.

We live as though we are under deadline. We have to do lists and carpools and bills to pay and library books to return and calories to burn and coupons to cut and board meetings to organize. And yet, when you are sitting with your best friend in the emergency room, all you can think of is how completely meaningless this nonsense is. If the bed isn’t made, the garden isn’t watered, the dog isn’t brushed, the car isn’t washed, the report isn’t completed, the gym isn’t visited, but your friends and family know how much you love them? You are living a life well lived.

This journey for me needs to be less about deadlines and more about living. Already a bit of a sentimentalist, I’m making a point of reaching out to my loved ones this week to remind them how very much they mean to me. I hope you’ll join me. If there is one thing the last week has made clear — you can’t have too much love.