By Garry Parker
The house is dark and quiet, other than the muffled sound of the air conditioner and my son’s fish tank in the other room..It is hauntingly silent as I write this only an hour before dawn, and I’ve been awake since 0330. The past few days have come with joy and tragedy – the cycle of life. As some of my family members and friends are grieving and faced with the daunting task of burying their loved ones, I was celebrating an enormous milestone for my father with my family and extended family and friends. Although I was celebrating, my heart still weighed heavy for those family members that were missing from our celebration, as they were attending to the details of planning a funeral for a very sweet lady. What a paradox, yet a perfectly normal one, and simply a part of life that we all will face..or have already.
Life is a short cycle. Sure, some live long and full lives until their 80’s or 90’s, or even the rare Centenarian, but what’s a mere century in the grand scheme of life? Today as I write this, and later as you read it, we will have spent minutes of our lives that can never be replaced. Our time here is limited, so it is our duty to ensure that our time well-spent. We can spend our time however we like; we can even waste it..but we can’t save time, nor can we kill it.
As I was surrounded by family and friends this weekend, emotions ran the gamut from extreme joy, happiness, and pride, to sullen and solemn conversation, and heartbreak for those recently departed, and the ones left behind. I spent my time in good conversation with my family and some very old friends that I had lost contact with…we laughed, we smiled, we told stories, and we hugged… a lot. There was an overwhelming feeling of genuine love and appreciation for life, that I am really having a hard time expressing in simple words..but when you feel it, well..you know it, and that feeling is indescribable.
Later in the evening, I called my Sensei in Okinawa (as I do every other week on Sunday evening) and we discussed life and karate, as usual. Then, he casually mentioned something that kept my mind racing long after we ended the call. “Maybe teach five more years, Pa-ka san.” I asked for an explanation! Sensei, are you ok? Are you sick? What’s going on? Why do you say only five more years? Sensei chuckled, and reminded me that in five years, he would be 80 years old, and would ‘tabun’ (maybe) only teach me for five more years. This struck me as odd, because only 6 months ago Takamiyagi Sensei unveiled his ‘Ten Year Plan’ to me (involving him, me, and our organization), and he’s always maintained that he intends to live at least 100 years!
By American standards, taking a less active role at 80 years of age makes a lot of sense, but those who have met and trained with Takamiyagi Sensei recently can verify that he has the speed, endurance, and power. of someone 30 years younger! This is one of the many benefits of consistent traditional Okinawan Karate training – health and vigor deep into old age. We didn’t speak more about the subject, and moved on quickly to other topics, but I couldn’t -and still can’t – get FIVE YEARS out of my head.
What if…you knew that you only had five years left with your teacher? How would it change you? Would you train harder, practice more intently, be more dedicated and loyal? Yes? Then why wait?
What if…you knew that you only had five years left with your father, or mother, or spouse? What if you only had five years left with your children? What would you do differently? What if it were only five months? How about five days?
You may be thinking now as you read..’That’s ridiculous, no one can know how much time is left”.
Do the right thing, because five years, five months, or five days – we are not promised tomorrow.
Take advantage of every precious moment with those that mean the most to you; it will be time well spent.