That was the title of a song I loved as a teenager back in 1968. The lyrics have much more meaning for me now that they did then.
When we're young, most of us look to the future with excitement, anticipation--but as we grow older, most of us find ourselves looking back. We remember our childhoods, people and pets who are no longer with us...places that hold fond memories...happy times.
Lately, I've been thinking about things I once did that I can no longer do--no, not running a decathlon. I couldn't do that at my peak. No, the things I'm thinking about are mostly very personal things, like spending Sunday afternoons at the Long John Silver's in my old neighborhood, eating lunch with all of my notes and manuscript pages on the table by the window, working as I ate. I think about listening to Casey Kasem on the radio, getting a bit teary-eyed at some of the stories behind his famous long distance dedications. I think about the restaurants I loved that have closed. The mall that was once a favorite haunt is now being torn down.
As we get older, many of us look back, only to see the images in our rearview mirror fading away. Sometimes, we wish we could turn back the clock. We wish things could be the way they used to be...but nothing ever stays the same. We aren't the same. Not much we can do about that.
But as much as I miss the loved ones who are no longer with us, as much as I miss the places that no longer exist and the things I can no longer do, lessons have been learned. Important ones. The people and places I've lost have made me see what really matters. In the autumn of my life, I've found a contentment I never knew before. Loss has taught me what really matters.
None of us is promised tomorrow. Sometimes, we don't see that until we lose what's most precious to us. I have a deep appreciation for the life I have now. I no longer feel a need for achievement, for seeing the world. Being home, watching a movie with Collin, or going out for lunch...these are the things that make me happy.
My only regret is that it took me so long to realize it.