A while ago I was standing on the tee box with some buddies and punctuated a funny story about an old golfing acquaintance with “He’s dead now, but … .” It got a laugh and the story went on. “He’s dead now” got the same laugh the first time I said it, about 10 years ago, and I didn’t think much about it. But this last time was different.
I realized I’d been qualifying stories with something like “He’s dead now” more often as the years have gone by. Plaques and trees honoring deceased players are appearing on our home course. One of those plaques honors the guy that was my regular partner when I first started playing here. I was one of the younger members of my original golf group and started playing with them about 18 years ago. So many of the regulars from that group are now hitting the ball around that great golf course in the sky that the group died out and was reconstituted with a new membership and playing format.
I guess this shouldn’t come as a real surprise. Time passes, people age, and death comes to us all. But seeing your friends fall away is a stark reminder of how precious every day is. I’ve been trying to put my finger on why the current fixation on “Good riddance to 2020” has been bugging me, and I think “He’s dead now” is a clue.
It’s been hard to joyfully carpe some of the diems we’ve had to deal with this year. There were quite a few days that I wanted to seize by the throat and squeeze until it apologized. But I’m not willing to throw away a year of life. I’m not very happy with a lot of things that happened in 2020, but I’m glad 2020 was here and I was there for the show. The alternative is worse.
I don’t enjoy the mask-on mask-off dance. I don’t like standing 6 feet apart from others and trying to figure out what local, state, or national ordinances are in effect. I mourn the lives lost to COVID, the business and financial distress many have suffered. The political season was and still is a dumpster fire. The world seems ever more full of “experts” eager to tell me what to do and what to think, just in case I wasn’t aware of my hidden foibles, biases and problems.
But I’m still here, my family, friends, and our little town are still here, and daily life goes on. Our corner of the Texas Hill Country is doing better than a lot of other places. Our local leaders are working hard to minimize governmental interference while elected leaders elsewhere grasp for power and control. Good things have happened in the midst of the storm. Many things have changed in my personal schedule, but what I’ve lost has been replaced with so many new activities that I can’t possibly do everything I want to do.
When Horace said “Carpe diem” he wasn’t saying “Have a nice day.” He was saying “Seize the day.” Grab the day that you find yourself in and do your best to make something of it. It’s the only day you have. That was true for Horace in the first century BC and was just as true for us in 2020. And it will be true again in 2021.
And maybe when they preface a story about you with “He’s dead now” it will be a story worth telling.
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