In the Space of a Heartbeat


“Why do they not teach you that time is a finger snap and an eye blink,
and that you should not allow a moment to pass you by
without taking joyous, ecstatic note of it, not wasting a single moment
of its swift, breakneck circuit?”
–Pat Conroy

Every now and then even the cheeriest among us find ourselves neck-deep in a pit of despair, with neither the energy nor the desire to claw our way out of the murky mire.  We willingly surrender to self-pity and allow our worries and woes to consume us, sometimes for days on end and sometimes for even longer.  The stronger ones (I am not among them) eventually fight their way out of the pit and back into the sunshine, but the rest of us (myself included) sometimes wallow in our misery until something tragic happens to someone else–and that tragic something gives us a much-needed kick in the rear and reminds us that we don’t have it so bad after all.

When I was a little girl, we had one television in our home, a mid-size console that broadcast two channels in fuzzy black and white.  My dad decided which channel we watched–which is why every Saturday at 6 p.m. we were tuned in to the cornpone humor of Hee Haw.  I’m reminded of a recurring skit on the show in which Roy Clark, Archie Campbell, Gordie Tapp and Grandpa Jones mourned into their moonshine jugs:

“Gloom, despair and agony on me,
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery.
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all;
Gloom, despair and agony on me.”

Yep, that pretty much describes how I’ve been feeling lately.  I’ve been bombarded with a series of small, frustrating health issues that have robbed too much of my time and energy and poisoned my thought process.  My head hurts.  My back hurts.  My neck hurts.  My blood pressure is too high, and my memory is too short.  I’ve spent entire days crumpled in my recliner, swallowing Advil, cuddling with a heating pad and staring forlornly at the sunshine on the other side of the window.

Poor, poor, pitiful me.

My heart ached (and still does) for all the people along the East Coast whose lives were devastated recently by the ravages of Hurricane Sandy.  I watched newscast after newscast, day after day, anxious for updated details on their plight, and even though I sympathized and empathized and prayed, their sad stories still weren’t enough to shake me from my self-imposed misery.

And then . . .

And then yet another friend received a grim cancer diagnosis.

And then a young man in our small community lost his life in a car accident.

And then yet another young man met the same tragic end.

And then two more men died suddenly in separate incidents.

In the space of a heartbeat, in the blink of an eye, lives were changed forever.  And while one wife was trying to enjoy the few remaining months she has with her beloved husband, other wives were mourning the sudden loss of their own.  Parents were mourning the loss of their sons, children were mourning the loss of their fathers, countless friends were mourning the loss of their buddies–and all were asking the same, heart-breaking question: “Why?”.  There is no acceptable answer, no explanation that can bring any degree of comfort to the loved ones left behind.

I know the pain of a father lost (and a mother, too), but I cannot imagine the agony of losing a child or a husband–and I selfishly pray that I never join the ranks of those with first-hand knowledge.  I am weak, and I am ashamed.  These senseless tragedies so close to home, so close to my heart, have jolted me awake like nothing else could, and I have been reminded once again how very precious life is and how we are guaranteed nothing–nothing!–but the present moment.  How many of those moments have I carelessly let slip away while I fretted over problems so petty and so small?

I could have been dreaming, contemplating, creating.

I could have been sharing my heart, lending my ear, giving my time.

I could have been loving deeper, holding tighter, smiling brighter.

I could have been begging forgiveness, whispering joy, shouting encouragement.

I could have been finding answers in the blazing fire, peace in the sunset, beauty in the wildflower.

I could have been doing any number of worthwhile things instead of sitting in a recliner, feeling sorry for myself and letting one precious moment after another evaporate into nothingness.

As I watch the sun rising over the hillside on this crisp November morning, my heart is heavy for all those struggling to face this day without their loved ones, and I have no words that can ease their agonizing pain or bring back the precious moments stolen from them.

But that same rising sun reminds me that today is a new day, and I will not take this day for granted.  I have a good life, a beautiful life filled with family and friends who love me even when I’m at my most unlovable, and I hope I never again forget how blessed I am to have another moment to share with them.

“Lost, yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours,
each set with sixty diamond minutes.
No reward is offered for they are gone forever.”
–Horace Mann

BSsunsetSunset over the lake, just over the hill from my home.

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About icedteawithlemon

I have recently retired from a 30-year career in education in one of the best school districts in the world. I hope to spend my second life reading, writing, photographing, traveling, biking, cheering on my favorite baseball team (the St. Louis Cardinals), and soaking up glorious sunshine. In my spare time I enjoy playing with my pet tarantulas, trying out new flavors of chewing gum, and knitting socks for prison inmates. I'm almost positive that in a past life I was one of the Seven Dwarfs (most likely "Grumpy"), and in my next life I'm going to be either a taste tester for Hershey's or a model for Victoria's Secret's new line, "Bloomers for Boomers." I want to travel country back roads, singing Vanilla Ice songs at every karaoke bar and rating bathroom cleanliness at every truckstop. And someday I plan to own a private beach where skinny girls aren't allowed. I want to be a writer when I grow up. "Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake."--Henry David Thoreau
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18 Responses to In the Space of a Heartbeat

  1. elizabeth rodgers says:

    thank you so much for writing this, mrs. eubank. it has been a very tough time for so many families lately. and your words express exactly how im feeling as a bystander.

    • You’re welcome, Beth, and thank you. It is hard to see so many suffering the pangs of loss and to feel ill-equipped to comfort them. May we never again take for granted how fortunate we are to have our loved ones with us.

  2. SUE says:

    Oh, Karen, this made me cry. And also reminded me yet again that no matter how heartbreaking life gets to be, our glass is still ALWAYS half full. Thank you – and I hope so much that you are feeling lots better too.

    • Thank you, sweet Sue. Not only is that glass half full, but we also need to be drinking from it more often. And I am on my way to feeling better; seeing others’ pain has certainly changed my perspective.

  3. rhonda newton says:

    Dear Karen, Wonderfully written, per usual. Have a blessed day. Rhonda

  4. lana cockrum says:

    Boy, did I need that. After a week or so of nothing but problems, trying to get custody of a granddaughter, possibly another mini stroke and stomach flu, I have really had a pity party, thanks for your article, now I will try to close the door to my party. Thanks. My prayers has been with everyone that have lost loved ones,

    • Thank you, Lana. Those pity parties are pretty lonely, aren’t they? I’m sorry to hear of your struggles, and I hope that once you close the door to the party, sunshine starts streaming through the windows. Thanks for stopping by and good luck!

  5. A beautiful post, Karen. A great reminder that every day is a gift – for ourselves and time spent enjoying our family and friends.

  6. Lili of the Field says:

    Hello, Karen! This is my first time dropping in here, and what a treasure trove I’ve stumbled upon! Your thoughts and words are sublime, and provide me with much food for thought.

    Your blog is a virtual oasis which lies in the midst of a thrashing, turbulent sea of internet grim news and a plethora of uploaded mindless flotsam. I thoroughly enjoyed this entry, and will no doubt read your other entries. You most certainly have a way with words. Your blog is both serene, intelligent, and spellbinding.

    Cheers!

  7. RayEtta says:

    I thought I had done this already, but every once in while my aging computer jumps around so that I don’t see what it does or does not do. You really said it all about feeling down. We all get there at times in our lives. I learned over some years that pain really does a number to anyone. If something hurts. your emotions, your mind and not just your body is involved. I hope you find some answers and some relief soon.

    • Thank you, RayEtta. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through writing and sharing my blog, it’s that I’m not so different from everyone else. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but maybe not in this case.

  8. Mary Fritz says:

    How true we take moments and days for granted and don’t enjoy them. Our time is so limited and it is a shame to waste any of it. Thanks again! Love your writing! Mary

    • Thank you, Mary. Perhaps we only become aware of how precious each day, each moment is when we reach a certain phase in our lives and realize the time we have left is most likely less than the time we have already squandered. But rather than wasting time wishing we could have those moments back, let’s focus on making every future moment worthwhile!

  9. bronxboy55 says:

    It seems to be part of the human struggle that we forget how fortunate we are. But maybe that tendency to adjust and adapt and grow accustomed to our situation is also how we manage to get through the kind of tragedies you’ve described. Most of us need to be reminded of how lucky we are, but as long as we have the ability to recognize our good fortune when it’s pointed out, we can snap back to that place of gratitude. Reading your thoughts always provides those reminders for me. Thank you for that.

    • Well said, Charles, and thank you. If I occasionally forget how fortunate I am, may I at least always be able to “snap back” when reminded. I am blessed beyond measure, and I am grateful that your friendship and support are among those blessings.

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