The Smaller Picture: A Life Lesson

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Having eaten in the Sweethollow Diner in Melville, Long Island, for the past decade, I had quickly become a “regular customer,” and had become acquainted with several old-time waitresses who had automatically ordered “the usual” for me without my even having asked for it.

Micky McNolty, one of them, had been a widow from Arizona who had been very active with her grandchildren, but had expressed a desire to take an Alaskan cruise, and I had often shared details concerning the experience with her. She had discussed the possibility of taking the trip with her brother, but after several years, he had repeatedly turned her down, and she had ultimately convinced her sister to travel with her instead. After twice making reservations (with appropriate trip insurance), she had been forced to cancel both of them due to her sister’s illness. Although the trip had not been feasible in 2007 because her sister had used all of her vacation days, 2008 had remained a promising alternative.

Micky had demonstrated considerable interest in and enthusiasm for travel to Arctic Canada, particularly after I had discussed my own trips there with her, and I had even presented her with a brochure which had spurred her into logging on to the destination’s web site in order to request information.

Having been Irish, she had most wanted to visit Ireland, however, and had managed to complete a ten-day, all-escorted motorcoach trip there alone in early-2005, which, upon return, she had assessed as having been “great!”

During the early part of 2007, however, she had appeared ill, with labored breathing, and I hadfailed to see her during my many diner visits. Upon inquiry, I had been told that she had been in hospitalwith a lung infection and had been diagnosed with emphysema, but had been later released and had now required periodic use of portable oxygen. Because the malady had no longer rendered waitressing feasible, she had begun a midnight hotel reservation position in August which, out of the public eye, had enabled her to access her oxygen supply when she had needed it. She had been grateful to “be back,” I had been told.

On September 4, the day after Labor Day, I had once again eaten in the Sweethollow Diner, had once again ordered my “usual,” had once again been served by another waitress whom I had also known for a decade, and had once again inquired, “How’s Micky?” But there had been one element which had been removed from this list of constants. “Micky passed away on August 30,” I had been informed.

My initial shock, reducing my emotions to those of numbness, had attempted to transcend the border between time and eternity, between delusion of earth’s permanence and reality’s non-physical infinity, between body and soul. That shock, upon retrospect, had been the attempt of my soul to cross that line and reconnect with its source, to escape the boundary of restraining, camouflaging emotions which had served to perpetuate the delusion.

When I had returned to a state of stability after several weeks of thought, introspection, and sometimes-painful emotionalization, I had realized that this decade of my life and the brief interactions I had had with this waitress had served to teach me several lessons.

Although we are “eternal” as souls and therefore do not understand or relate to finite concepts, I had first concluded, we often forget that, in the end, there is nothing permanent or constant about the physical world, despite the fact that we delude ourselves into believing otherwise. My emotional shock had been the equivalent of that delusion’s shattering.

My self-coined “someday syndrome” philosophy-that is, continually putting off those things you wish to do until tomorrow, next week, next month, or even next year-leads to an unfulfilled, unaccomplished dead end. Tomorrow is promised to no one. Time is a gift and the moment you fail to use it, you have lost it forever and can never regain it. It cannot be saved in a bank account and later withdrawn with interest.

Relying on others to realize your goals often leads to your own failure to do so. Micky had traveled to Ireland because she had gone alone, but had not taken any of her other trips because she had relied on others to do so. They can never be taken now.

Take opportunities when they present themselves: they may never present themselves again, and only you will be the loser!

I would like to think that, although Micky had failed to realize most of her travel goals, that having shared my own travel-related experiences with her had, in some small way, incentivized her into at least taking her Ireland trip. She, on the other hand, had served me so many times, although on the professional level, and had engaged in an equal number of mostly travel-related conversations in a mutual interchange which had enabled each of us to contribute to the other, again in some small way, in a view which could be considered the “smaller picture” of life.

All of these “smaller pictures,” when pieced together, equal the “larger picture”…life itself.

Never underestimate the value of “small things.”

Never cut an even infinitesimal slice from the pie and believe you still have the whole.

Every soul on this planet makes these small contributions everyday which, when added together, equals the whole.

The “whole” on earth emanates from, and therefore reflects, the “whole” above.

There will forever be a void in the Sweethollow Diner and I will miss the exchanges with which we had mutually contributed to each other on the “smaller picture” level, but Micky, thanks for the life lesson…and I will miss you.

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