I hesitated slightly as I asked the question. Caron has grown frail the past few years, suffering from COPD and tethered to oxygen 24 hours a day. Her loving husband Bud has taken over all the household tasks and cares for her full-time.
Caron laughed quietly. "You know, the best celebration I can imagine is just having one more ordinary day," she replied. "I'm grateful for every day of my life. Every day is a celebration!"
Her words made me think of a conversation I had with Aunt Molly a little over a decade ago. It was near the end of her life. And she was telling me about a recent visit to her doctor when he had expressed concern about her heart. He had handed her his stethoscope, asking her to listen to the off-rhythm heartbeats. Instead of alarm, what she felt was wonder.
"It seemed miraculous to me, as imperfect as the rhythm might have been," she said. "I thought that my heart has been beating for 87 years -- since I was in my mother's womb -- and it has never stopped, never been a problem up to now. I said a quiet thanks to my heart for carrying on so well for so long. And if it's getting tired, if it needs to stop sooner rather than later, so be it. I'm grateful for every heartbeat, for every moment of every day that may be left."
The memory of Aunt Molly and the experience of talking with Caron recently make me stop and think about how casually we accept the days given to us.
So many spend days complaining that life isn't as perfect as they had hoped it would be. Whether it's complaining about the weather, about the food at the local diner, about neighbors they have come to know and not like, about the vicissitudes of daily life, so many of us get caught up in the small stuff and lose sight of the big picture -- that we're alive, in reasonable health, living comfortably in a world filled with wonders.
Some spend days watching t.v. or playing cards "to kill the time", to fill the empty hours of each day, letting opportunities to help others, to express love, to explore their own unique creative gifts slip away.
Some of us count the days until a vacation, a special event, or some other happy occasion, mentally skipping over the time in between -- time that may end up being as eventful or meaningful as the long-anticipated occasion.
And some of us put off positive changes until tomorrow, always assuming that tomorrow will be soon enough, that tomorrow will, in fact, come.
I've made a promise to myself not to wait until a life-threatening or life-limiting disorder strikes to begin to treasure all of my days. Each day - regular, unremarkable days as well as the days marking memorable occasions -- is a gift. It is a chance to look around and see the world in a new way. It is a chance to accept what is and embrace whatever life brings with joy -- living with gratitude instead of self-pity, wonder instead of fear.
Each day is, indeed, worth celebrating.