Today’s visit to the bank should have followed the same basic routine it always has; a few transactions in a few minutes. But what I thought would be a simple exchange of polite greetings with a bank representative transformed into a beautiful connection with “Nick” (on his name tag). It was an encounter that has influenced my thinking and taught me a valuable lesson about how precious each second of every minute, hour and day are to those of us still drawing breath on this earth.
As I exited the bank, Nick called my name. As I turned around, he pointed in my direction and said, “Phyllis, remember to ‘Make it a Great Day.'”
I smiled and said, “I will!” After learning that Nick had lost his wife Michele, his soulmate, friend and partner at the young age of 54 to breast cancer, I knew that I was right where I was supposed to be on that day and at that moment. I only learned of Nick’s story after I entered the bank to make a few transactions and he politely asked, “Can I Help You?”
When Nick asked to assist me, I told him that I needed to make sure my children were assigned to my financial profiles on all of my accounts. I looked at him and said, “I’m not married, and at 54 you never know what can happen, so I want to be certain my children can make any required transactions should they need to do so.” I added, “Nick, things can change in a day.”
He paused, exhaled and said, “Yes, they can.” That opened the door for Nick to share his painful but poignant story with me. He told how he lost Michele, ”spelled with one L.” “We went to Aruba just 11 months ago, and two months later she was gone.”
“No! How? Why? Do you have children? Do you have a church you attend?” I asked. My tsunami of questions flooded him at once. “Am I being too personal?”
“No, it’s good that I talk about it,” he said. “Sometimes I feel like I’ve crawled into a dark hole and now am trapped there; and at times I don’t know one day from the next,” he uttered.
“Do you have pictures of her?” I asked. And with a Kool-Aid smile, he pulled out his smartphone and there she was. So many beautiful photos of her, their three children, friends and family, and a photo that Nick and she had taken in Aruba together just last November. That same photo is now etched in stone on her memorial.
I could not hold back the tears, nor could he.
Michele had left a legacy of love, compassion and generosity. It was evident by the way many memorialized her with an inscription with her name and signature slogan, “Make it a Great Day.” Nick said that she would say it all the time, no matter what. Even the local coffee shop that Nick and Michele frequented had it imprinted on their cups, and he showed me a photo to prove it.
As difficult as it was for Nick to share his pain, he was elated to know with certainty that his wife’s life was filled with a legacy of love. Although I never met Michele, between my hello and good-bye with Nick I felt as though I had gotten to know her. I felt her legacy was an awakening for me to remember that I cannot change yesterday. I can only make the most of today and look with hope toward tomorrow. During those minutes in the bank, Nick and I connected as he opened his memories that celebrated Michele’s life and honored her legacy. And I believe Michele was looking from the heavens, proud of her Nick!
Life is comprised of moments, and it is our choice to enjoy and consider each present one that we are in. Where we are right now can create great satisfaction if we accept that the present is truly a “gift,” not a “guarantee.” Nick’s testimony was also a reminder for me not to lose the beauty of today while waiting for the day after. The day after may be on our calendar, but it is not promised.
Today, “Make it a Great Day” holds a deeper understanding for me. It’s no longer a cliché or empty words from my smiling face. It now comes from my heart.
From this day forward, I will remember the meaning behind “Make it a Great Day!” and I encourage you to “Make it a Great Day,” too. The choice is yours!