New York State Funeral Directors Association

"Sorry, but I don't have any time to meet you for coffee next week, but I do know that if you were to die next week, I would make the time for your funeral. So, as long as you are still alive next week, I would have to say no."

Of course we don't actually say these words to our loved ones, friends and co-workers, but we do often live like this.

One day I was doing my daily morning reading of the obituaries, and I was struck by the thought that most of the time, we only have a day or two notice, if that, to find out about a death of someone we knew.

Maybe we read it in the paper, or get a phone call or email.

We respond immediately by clearing our busy schedules on our calendars and blackberries so that we can be available to be there. Man makes a phone call on cell phone

Nothing seems more urgent and important than to attend a funeral of someone we care about.

I find it fascinating, that we, a society of chronically busy people, who pride ourselves on our ability to multi-task, can and often do, drop everything for a funeral, a wake, a service or a Shiva call.

However, if our friend or loved one is alive and asks us to share a cup of coffee, a bit of time with us, we often decline saying, "Sorry, I would love to, but I am way too busy. Let's do it another time."

Being in the grief field has made me more appreciative of life and very aware that we never know how much time we have left with anyone in our life.

Each time I listen to a griever, I am reminded of the preciousness of each moment.

I ask myself: 'if this was my last day, what do I need to say to the people I love and care for?' Am I doing what really matters or am I just busy?

A wonderful speaker who does hospice work, shared with me once that he kept putting off a bike trip with his adult brother.

Two years it took for them to plan a time when both busy men could meet.

Finally the brothers planned a date in July to meet out west and spend two weeks biking together.

They put it on their calendars.

Well, sadly and tragically, my friend's brother was killed in a house fire two weeks before their bike trip.

They never got to take their trip. My friend Doug, keeps his "bike trip" July calendar page on his wall, years now, as a reminder that life is precious and not to put off spending time with people who we care about.

Please think about the people in your own life who have asked you for some time and you told them that you were too busy.

Imagine if we all could learn to view coffee dates, visits and even phone calls to say hello, with the same urgency and importance as we do funerals.

We could all lead much richer lives, with more love and have more memories and less regrets to share when we do attend the funeral.

Lisa AthanLisa Athan, MA
Lisa Athan, MA, is Executive Director of Grief Speaks. Athan makes presentations on grief and loss at hospitals, schools and other institutions throughout the U.S.