This weekend we will visit the cemetery and share memories with family and friends. This is the time when I usually hear people saying over and over “If only….” as they reminisced about those who have gone on before us.

To me “if only” may be the saddest words in anyone’s vocabulary. These two words echo the unfulfilled wishes and unrealized dreams of times past, of words of love left unsaid, of hurts or damaged relationships unforgiven, of things of importance left undone, of times when we forgot to show our care and concern for the living. If only I had visited my dad (uncle, aunt, sister…) when they were sick in the hospital… If only I had attended the birthday celebration of my aunt; I didn’t know that would be her last birthday. If only I had taken the time to tell her I loved her… If only …

You may have heard the expression “today’s just a dress rehearsal; there is always tomorrow.” Unfortunately, many of us think we still have time to do this or that, to say “I love you” or “I forgive you” or “please forgive me for causing you hurt”. We hold back and think “anyway I can do that tomorrow.”

But truthfully today isn’t just a dress rehearsal. Life, today, at this moment, is the real thing. Time never, I repeat NEVER, repeats itself! Once today is gone, it will never recur. Every morning we wake up to a fresh set of minutes and hours, the first day of the rest of our life. It is up to us to make the most of it, so that the following day we will not have to say “if only I had done this or that…” Living a life weighed down with a growing burden of regrets only makes life more difficult, drains our spirit as well as our energy, and unleashes ripples of hurts, both emotional and physical.

We have hundreds of minutes every day to listen to a birdsong, hug our children, forgive our neighbor, play ‘close-open’ with our 8-month-old granddaughter, gaze in wonder at the shifting cloud formations, comfort someone who is hurting, inhale the delicious odor of smoke from the roadside barbecue stands, make a list of things to do, take the time to actually do some of these things and delight in crossing them off our list, learn a new song or dance, embrace our spouse in love, sit for a moment with our aging parent even if he doesn’t remember our name, thank our God for his abundant blessings. It is these moments of happiness and joy, these small, authentic moments we experience that bring us contentment and peace.

I believe that what is missing from many of our days is a true sense that we are enjoying the lives we are living. We become immersed in daily routine to the point that sometimes we unconsciously become automatic robots.

I for one don’t want to live unconsciously, do you? We have everything we need in life to make us happy but simply lack the conscious awareness to appreciate what we have. Let’s choose today to wake up to what we have, to open our eyes and our hearts to the good that already exists in our own lives, and to the kindness and happiness that we can bring to others through random acts of kindness.

We can decide to create precious memories through what we do today, so that, come some November 1 in the future, our friends and families will remember us for the happy moments, for the loving moments, for the way we enjoyed God’s blessings during our lifetime, for the gems of wisdom and wit with which we enriched their lives. Then they can truthfully say, “She (or he) was truly a blessing for us” rather than comment with a deep sigh, “if only…”

Today let us grasp the awareness of what it is that makes us really happy and embrace each moment as an experience of fulfillment, blessing, and joy.

Let’s replace the “if only’s” with “Yes, I did that (or said that) and I’m glad I did for it made my heart sing!”

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