Got plans?  Are you planning for a major life event, a wedding, a new baby, a trip, a career change, or simply looking forward to the weekend?  My husband and I are empty nesters.  We enjoy our careers and the joy of learning new things and meeting new colleagues and friends, but we find ourselves talking more and more about retirement.  It is the natural progression for empty nesters – the next milestone.  We long for days that we can enjoy more time together; more time with family and friends; travel; and hobbies.  We know some retired people that do it right.  They have financially planned for a secure future, are in overall good health, and do all the things that we look forward to.

My parents did all of the things that financial experts advise people to do.  They had been in the empty nesting stage when my dad learned that he had pancreatic cancer.  We lost him six months later.  My mom pushed herself on and busied herself with family, friends, and travel.  The brave lady traveled the world by herself.  She rode a camel, a speedboat, a hot air balloon, and saw countless amazing places while making new friends along the way. Then there was Hurricane Katrina that blew into New Orleans and forever changed her life as well as hundreds of thousands of other people’s lives.  Two years after Katrina mom was diagnosed with dementia.  Couple dementia and debilitating health conditions and we had no choice but to move her to assisted living.  She has been there for seven years.

I have learned so many things from my mom during the last seven years.  The human spirit has a strong desire to live, love, be loved and is ever hopeful.  Mom still longs for the simple pleasures that she can no longer enjoy – reading, driving, traveling, walking, cooking, and independence.  She has been such a trooper.  Some days she seems to think she will revert to her former self and other days the reality seems to overcome her.  She lives in a place where she is surrounded by people, but she is so lonely.  She mentally lives in the past so she longs for time with family and friends that can take her to an emotionally happy place.  A phone call or visit from a friend or family member is the highlight of her day.

We so look forward to milestones in our lives and the benefits that we will enjoy when we get there that we often forget to enjoy the moments along the way and don’t acknowledge that with the promise that every milestone brings, there are also new challenges.  Watching mom struggle through this phase of her life has made me more cognizant of the importance of enjoying the process not just the event.  All those clichés take on a different meaning.

Enjoy the weekend!  Enjoy your family and friends!  Live in the moment!  Carpe Diem!  Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!  Smell some roses!

© 2015 Mitchell Hayes