I recently had a conversation with an elderly family member back in the US, in which they said to me, “at my age you never know how much time you have left, so I can’t waste time on things that aren’t important. You are young and can’t understand, but you will someday”. What this person failed to understand is that I, more than most, very much do understand that thought and feeling. It was only a short 3 years ago, on September 15th, 20012, that that point was shoved down my throat in the most violent way possible.
On that afternoon, I was walking with my parents and their good friends, when an out of control car went up on the sidewalk and ran us over. My parents were killed and me and their friends were left badly injured. It is hard to grasp that one can learn something positive from such a tragedy, but I have. And it just so happens, that the lesson learned was one my father used to try share often.
My father was a very hard worker, working long days and was always at the top of his field. BUT, when he had time off, he always made it count. Probably my parent’s favorite things to do when my dad had time off from work, was to travel. Sometimes they would travel just the two of them and sometimes the whole family. Some of my favorite family memories were from these family trips, be it a local road trip to Washington DC, or a trip across the ocean to Copenhagen.
Some of my parent’s more frugal friends used to say to them, “We wish we could travel like you, but we don’t want to spend the money”. My father used jokingly reply, “are you planning on being buried with that money? What are you saving it for?” While my parents were alive, most people did not understand this lesson and just thought my father was just being hyperbolous. But one evening, after I had recovered enough to leave the US, one of my parents close friends took me aside and said, “I always thought your father was joking when he asked me if I wanted to be buried with my money. But he was right and I wish I had learned this lesson sooner.”
One thing I do not think I will ever get over, is the randomness of the accident. If this random driver had not been so irresponsible, if we had walked slower, or faster, or someone stopped to tie their shoes, the accident would not have happened. This scared me for sometime, but I quickly realized that randomness and mortality are part of life and I cannot let it paralyze me, because if I did, what kind of life would I be living? Instead, I remembered my father’s lesson and use this to drive me forward. Many people like to use the term “carpe diem” (seize the day). The slang “YOLO” (you only live once) is common and overused. But how many people actually understand the weight of such statements? How many people really seize the opportunities before them? How many people really try and find their path to happiness? I hope, someone out there will read this post, and it will help push them in the direction of happiness. I also hope that this explains to people why I choose to live the way that I do.
2 thoughts on “The Most Important Lesson I Ever Learned”
Thank you Ami. A very moving and life affirming post. You strike the right balance, I believe, of seizing the day and truly living life, without being foolhardy. I see you as a very responsible and thoughtful person. You learned a painful lesson very young in life, a lesson many of us never learn. You honor your parents with your life, and your willingness to share your experience helps wake some of us from the illusion that we have control over our circumstances. I appreciate your post. Xo
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Thank you so much.