The last words a dear friend and colleague offered me as she lay dying in a hospital bed were a maxim that has taken on ever more significance in the years since passed: “Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.”
She was a deeply spiritual person who’d spent years seeking meaning through religion. Born Jewish, her search took her towards alternative religions and my sense was she had finally found the truth and the peace she’d been searching for. The simplicity of her advice struck me at the time: not to follow any particular religious teaching or guru, as she had done, but simply to stop and be in the moment.
She has come to mind these decades later, particularly on my precious daily walks, and I wonder, if she were here now what she’d make of this coronavirus world. I’d like her to know that I literally stop to smell the roses, now more than ever.
There’s another friend I find myself thinking about, too. She too was a teaching colleague and, like me, would write a list of tasks to be fitted in to each day. We’d compare our progress regularly and her advice was to expect to get through only 80 per cent of the listed tasks. She also died prematurely with many of those chores being uncompleted. That didn’t matter of course. What did matter was she still had so much living to do: books to read, conversations to have, meals to share. Most importantly, to see her only child married and to meet her two grandchildren.