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Timing

Contributing writer

Sometimes timing is everything. My cousin Gail and I met only once in our lives when we were about 10. Later, as an adult, she began writing to me occasionally. Although I am the world’s worst correspondent, we kept in touch after a fashion.

A few years ago, when she moved from California to Oregon, Gail obtained a phone plan with unlimited long distance minutes to keep track of old friends. After that, she called to chat now and then.

Often we spoke of a hope we could get together someday. However, it is a long way from Kansas to the West Coast, especially for two women with little time and less money. Shortly before Christmas, Gail called to tell me she had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and probably had only about six months to live. There goes any hope of ever getting together, I thought.

At Christmas time, Gail sent me more than enough money to enable me to buy a bus ticket and go to Oregon to see her. Discovering that my bus ticket would cost over twice as much if I did not book it three weeks in advance and counting on the theoretical six months, I scheduled my departure for Jan. 23. Gail’s sister Mary called me Jan. 18 to say Gail had gone to be with the Lord.

The bus tickets are non-refundable, and I am still a Scot. I still plan to go to Oregon. I hear Portland is a beautiful city. I know there will be a lot of beautiful scenery between here and there. But it will be a rather sad trip.

In contrast, I find myself remembering something that happened in 1954. My mother’s brother called her from Missouri to say he would come pick her up and take her and their sister to Oklahoma to visit their other brother. Mom had a dozen excuses to prove she couldn’t go, but Uncle Bert refused to take no for an answer. The three of them spent a long weekend with Uncle Will and had a marvelous time. The following weekend Uncle Will was sitting in his backyard and fell off his chair dead.

Thanks to Uncle Bert, Mom got her timing right. I am not completely sure what any of this proves. Some things are out of our control, and that is probably a good thing. I would not have wanted Gail to linger in a lot of pain just so I could see her again. It is not always even possible to do the things we would like to do. However, I think we need to take time to be with the people we love whenever we can. I am a chronic procrastinator, but I am being reminded that some things are too important to put off.

Last modified Jan. 25, 2012

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