I knew she was a Texan the minute she opened her mouth; that friendly twang was unmistakable. We were waiting in the hotel lobby for friends to join us for dinner and to pass the time, struck up a conversation with the couple standing nearby. He was a little on the reserved side, friendly, but not super chatty. She, on the other hand, had clearly never met a stranger.
“What brings you to Mexico?” I asked. She told me that they loved staying in Cancun and had just purchased a club level package at the hotel. I noticed that her resort bracelet was imprinted with diamond symbols and mine was not and very soon found out (she was a sharer) that their package included stays in the presidential suite, privileges at other properties and even access to the hotel yacht (!). I concluded that they must be retired so be able to travel so frequently and she confirmed that he had retired but that she owned several companies and had no intention of slowing down.
“Life’s too short, honey, and we want to pack as much as we can into it because we’re not promised tomorrow.”
She went on to tell me that not too long ago, he began to show signs of mental confusion and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The symptoms had progressed rapidly and he’d been forced to retire. Once home, he degraded quickly, sitting in his chair, increasingly unable to carry on a conversation. She was desperate to do anything to help him (“I love this man!” she told me, over and over) and after visiting several clinics over the course of two years, wound up at an Alzheimer’s facility at Baylor University where after a series of tests they were stunned to find out he was simply experiencing side effects from his daily Crestor pill. Within a week of coming off his medicine, her husband was back.
I mentioned that it was no wonder that they were taking full advantage of this second lease on life and then she told me the rest of their story. “I’m a salivary cancer survivor, sweetheart. Six years ago I was told I had two years left to live. I’m living on borrowed time every single day of my life because the cancer will most definitely come back, and when it does, it will be with a vengeance. That’ll be it.”
I’ve been thinking about Bob and Diane since coming back from my trip. Their story, far from being sad, is so very encouraging to me. They’re looking life (and death) square in the face and wringing every bit out of it that they can, while they can (as I write, he’s headed to Haiti on his third mission trip). While some would curl up in a ball and wait for the end to come, they aren’t. He’s staying busy (and out of her hair, she said) while she’s working and doing what she loves (which apparently includes winning court cases and raking in million of dollars in settlement fees and spending some of it on some very nice jewelry that I just had to try on while we were visiting).
I was so inspired by the two of them – by their clear love for each other, their gratitude for time together, and their zest for life – and they’ve added to my life by showing me what it means to fully experience and learn from the joys and the sorrows. I’m sure I’ll be unpacking lessons from my brief interaction with them for many months to come. For today, I have just this one:
Carpe diem, y’all.
Have a nice day.