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What Are Your Priorities?

My best friend and I, 1973

A dear friend died recently. Her husband fired up their gas grill for a leisurely summer dinner. A freak accident led to a house fire. She was trapped inside, and died as a result. He is struggling to survive. The house is gone. My heart is heavy.

She was an amazing person and an important part of my life. Her death spurs me to look inward. What is important? Do I spend enough time with my loved ones? When I do, am I kind? Do I tell them I love them? Do I have any unresolved issues with anyone that I need to clear up? Is there anyone I’ve been meaning to contact, but put off until tomorrow, followed by many more tomorrows?

Behind all these questions is the ever-present reality that life is short and there is no do-over. I will never get another opportunity to have lunch with my friend. Death will continue to remove loved ones from my life, and ultimately will take me. As the poet Mary Oliver wrote, “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (from The Summer Day)

Time with friends isn’t just about having fun. It is also about improving health. Studies have repeatedly shown the health benefits of social relations. Friends help us feel better and live longer. People who exercise with a partner or in groups report reduced pain when compared to those who exercise alone.

Family is important, but friends usually make us feel good without adding a layer of stress. We may love our family, but we don’t choose them. We select our friends because they have qualities that we share. A good friendship is a bond like no other.

A few days after my friend died, I contacted my best friend and invited her to visit. She arrives in August. My heart already feels lighter.  I don’t know what I will do with my one wild and precious life, but part of it involves kayaking and hiking with my best friend. What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

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