One day, a few years ago when we lived on our farm, my daughter dropped our farm dog, Jessie, and me at the bottom of our road on her way to university. The walk back to the house was only about 3km, but a climb of about 200m. The road was usually deserted.
That day, the sun was shining and the air was still. It was a beautiful spring day. There were animals in the paddocks, birds calling overhead and insects in the grasses. I started to walk home. I checked my heart rate and set off with no thought of doing my walk especially well.
It was a walk, wasn’t it? Lovely weather and all that, but just a walk. A way of easing off those extra kilos. A means to an end.
And then I started to watch Jessie. She’d done this walk with me on countless occasions. But I’d never taken particular notice before of her expectant attitude. She was inspirational.
She was always ahead. While I walked fifty paces, she ran about a hundred and fifty. Up the banks, down the banks, from one side of the road to the other. Seeking out all the smells. Checking out all the animals. Laughing when she scared the sheep in the paddocks and made them run away. Alarmed and hesitant when she scared a mother duck with her seven babies out of the long grass. Curious as she watched them all waddle across the road and reach the safety of the stream. Wondering, no doubt, if she should round them up, and looking to me for a command.
All through the walk she kept alert. On the two occasions when we heard the noise of an approaching car, she ran straight to my side without command and walked quietly at my heel.
How can we walk and not give it our full concentration, I wondered? How can we not be our best in everything we do? This may be our very last walk, our very last moment. It has to be our best. We never know when our lives will end. But if we live them in the very best way we can, we can live in the certainty that there will be no regrets. I have (at least) one such regret.
Years ago in England, a well-loved member of our bridge club became ill. I didn’t know how ill. But each day as I walked the children to school I’d look up in the general direction of her house in the hills and say to myself, ‘I must visit Lilly soon.’ Soon never came. One day her husband told us that Lilly had died.
But why would we bother to live each moment as if it was our last? Wouldn’t we all get rather tired? I never saw Jessie looking tired. She was always expectant. Always willing. Always ready. Her purpose in life was clear. She always wanted to please. And she always wanted action.
Our lives aren’t a dress rehearsal. There’s never plenty of time. There’s only now.