Coffee with a Dying Woman

“Live not one’s life as though one had a thousand years, but live each day as the last” – Marcus Aurelius

To live in the present moment is a tough task. There are millions of ways we can be distracted not to mention most of us rather not live in the present moment if said moment is unpleasant. “I can’t wait until…”, “If only it was…”, “thing will be different when…”

Many of the stoic meditations have to do with letting the unpleasantness of life bounce off you as your mind is the armor to protect your soul with. Death is a constant theme with the stoics, and I believe this is the reason that the stoic philosophy still holds people’s interest over the centuries.

Death is the only certainty we have. One day I shall awake to my last day on this earth; this is a fact as certain as the air we breathe. What is important in this life to me? I don’t have to think too hard about this question; the people in my life are important to me. All people are important to me. If I could choice between the wellness of one of my fellows and my own selfish desires, I will always pick my fellows. Right? Unfortunately, life and people are more complicated than that.

My husband makes coffee for me in the morning. Every morning. Some days, I don’t get to the coffee until hours after it was made by my husband’s caring hands. Some days, we may argue or the stress of getting our kids off to school may cause disruption, but the coffee is a constant.

What a simple thing, to make two coffees instead of one. It doesn’t take much time or effort but the meaning behind it what I want to focus on. A few minutes of quiet reflection sitting at the table with my husband while sipping hot coffee is a magical experience. It may not happen every day, but it could.

A few years ago, I had a sponsor who told me always to sit by an open chair at an AA meeting and that if anyone asked if someone was sitting there, say that you were saving the seat for them. The idea is to welcome those who are uncertain and offer comfort by thinking about them before you had even met them.

In theory this a beautiful practice, anticipating the newcomer and being ready to welcome them. However, the practice quickly became distorted as people would save seats for people who they knew already and would tell people that they did not know that the seat was taken; thus, becoming a very unwelcoming practice.

By default, humans have difficulty living in the present moment. It takes practice and discipline to quiet the mind and truly be present. Even as I write this now, in the back of my mind an upcoming event is renting space in my head and telling me that I need to hurry up and finish this so I can go get ready. I need to hurry up and write about slowing down. Humans are complex creatures indeed.

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