No matter how many days one individual might be given, there is a finite number of September mornings to revel in, and each is a gift worthy of celebration. I stepped out the back pasture gate as the morning sun turned soybean fields to the west a golden hue. I watched in awe as twin newborn calves wobbled and then gained footing.
With a light breeze rippling across our place up on this hill, I felt just the slightest of chill, reminding us September is nodding on, ushering in autumn. I am reminded of a kindly man I met when I was a young, innocent American National Red Cross employee in a Naval hospital.
This fellow was a veteran who had seen combat over a lifetime of service. He asked me to help him write a letter to his sister, as his latest hospitalization was due to burns on his arms and hands. “I want you to remind her to enjoy each day. Help me choose the right words.”
He explained that his older sister tended to focus on the hard work of life, forgetting to see the sweet gifts that Earth provides. He described her as somber and hard-edged, and he worried about her missing all the joy of life. “I want you to remind her that none of us know how many Septembers we will be given.”
Those words have stayed with me, across all these years. I was likely 21 when this man uttered those words as I sat at his bedside in a North Carolina hospital. I wrote the letter, reading it back to him, and he nodded and smiled his approval. Little did he know how his words would stay with me, marching through many Septembers as I grew as old as he was in that moment.
The hard work life always demands will forever be there, but joy and work can co-exist. Time marches on, and we can march along with it, a skip in our step, or try to push and fight our way through it. This wise veteran reminded me to open my eyes to the joys, and get out there and enjoy the simple things.
Born and raised on a southern farm, he learned to fish in a creek with simple string and a baited hook. He spent his free time in later years growing this love of the sport, had spent days and nights out on the ocean, landing bigger fish than he ever could have dreamed up, and had photographed sunsets all over the world.
“The best sunsets are the ones you take the time to marvel over,” he said. He reminded me that some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets have been missed “because ya think a floor needs mopped … I’m here to tell ya, it will wait.”
As this September bows toward October, remember the wisdom imparted by a veteran with a great southern drawl, a tough old guy whose battle scars brought insight that far outweighed any classroom knowledge.
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