I took my daughter to the park this morning and there was another girl her age running around with what was clearly her grandfather close behind. We introduced them to each other and got to talking ourselves. After a while, it came up that he’s been spending more time with his granddaughter recently since his son has been off of his feet due to a recent surgery.
“Well at least he has you to cover for him while he’s resting up”, I said.
“Well…” he replied. It seemed that he debated for a moment on whether to go on. He let me know that he retired right before the pandemic started. And it was only shortly after that he was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors gave him two years to live.
He said the hospitals were closed for the surgery he needed to remove the cancer from his body. He waited, and waited. Meanwhile, the cancer was spreading.
He told me, “I remember going in for a doctor’s visit and they had me drink this stuff that highlighted all of the cancer in my body on X-ray while I was watching. What a surreal experience.”
Finally, and I’m not sure exactly how much later, he was able to get his surgery. They removed a section of his ribs, 75% of his stomach, and more to get rid of the cancer in his body. “I’m now cancer free, but I was in a lot of pain. They told me I’d be in excruciating pain for about 4 months, and they were right. It was horrible to go through, but at least I had a choice. I’m lucky to be alive.”
The conversation drifted to other topics, and we ended up pushing the kids in the swings for awhile. We exchanged names, I wished him and his son well, and hoped that we would run into each other at the park again in the future.
I was filled with empathy for him that he had to go through such a difficult experience, but is still there showing up for his family. Despite being in pain, he’s out at the park chasing around a two year old.
I’m also filled with gratitude for what I get to do every day. Frankly, you never really know if you’ll get another day to be with the people you love. My new friend from the park was lucky that he survived, fought through it, and is now getting to spend some well-deserved time with his grand children.
I left a lot on the table by leaving my full-time job. I’m taking some risk financially for sure. But I could never put a price on the last year I’ve been lucky enough to spend with my daughter and all the years to come.
I’m thankful that my new friend is alive and well, and I’m thankful for the reminder that you never know how much time you have left. Enjoy the moment, and never trade your time for stuff if you can help it.
“I’ll wait until my 30s to start saving for retirement, I want to just enjoy my 20s”, is a classic line I used to hear from friends and colleagues. As I was reminded today, there are no guarantees. If you want to start getting your financial life on track today, start with my posts on Investing 101 and the 4% rule. Good luck in your journey, it’s worth it!