All The Time In The World

By Melissa Face

It is not uncommon for the religious person to spend years, maybe even decades, pondering the meaning of life. For some of us, we may be well into adulthood before we realize what doesn’t matter at all and what is actually important.

So what happens when a 19-year-old leads you down the road to insight? You avoid exits, ignore rest areas and drive as quickly as possible. After all, we do not have a lot of time.

My sister, Amanda Seeley, was 19-years-old when her time on earth expired. And though no one can say with certainty whether or not she knew that her life would be shorter than average, she lived it as though she did.

Killed in a car crash just 20 miles from her hometown on a stifling August afternoon, Amanda left this world without grudges and enemies and with countless loving relationships. She knew what mattered.

I was five years older than my sister, Amanda, but definitely none the wiser. And though she has been gone since 2003, I am still learning valuable lessons from the way she lived her life.

Amanda didn’t believe in wasting anything – not food, not money or belongings, and especially not time. She ate what she ordered, donated items she no longer needed, and utilized every available moment of her day. She packed so many events into each week that I felt exhausted just looking over her planner.

While I spent my teenage years sleeping late, complaining and arguing with my parents, Amanda was taking advantage of every opportunity that came her way. But I didn’t care that I was wasting time. I often told myself, there’s always tomorrow.

My sister placed a lot of emphasis on punctuality. If she said she would call you at 4, or meet you at 6, she would. I typically disregarded schedules and appointments. I was late for everything from church, school and work, to dances and other social engagements that I enjoyed. It didn’t bother me that I was being disrespectful to people I loved. I said to myself, so I’m a little late. Big deal.

One incident of my lateness rarely escapes my thoughts. I came home to Virginia to attend a close friend’s wedding. I made arrangements to go to dinner with Amanda after the wedding, and I promised her I would leave the reception early. But I lost track of time and showed up late. Amanda was upset but she didn’t yell or fuss. She looked me in the eye and said, “Now we don’t have a lot of time to spend together.” As we headed to the restaurant, I told her, “You’re overreacting. We still have plenty of time.”

I was so wrong.

Since she was a small child, Amanda believed in being prepared. Days before her birthday party, she organized goody bags for her friends. She addressed Christmas cards in October, and she signed Valentines for her classmates in December. She also packed for trips in advance. I usually rounded up my belongings mere moments prior to departure but Amanda was always ready. She liked having her bags packed for trips. Her suitcase was packed on August 8, 2003, but instead of Greenville, N.C., Amanda went to Heaven.

And even though I may never understand why a crystal serving bowl (purchased for a friend’s wedding) survived the car crash and Amanda did not, I do know that her time on Earth was significant. Amanda’s life was short only in years; she accomplished more in two decades than some people do in 80 years.

But more important than the way Amanda lived was the way in which she loved. Without stipulations, judgment or limitations, she loved people regardless of their faults. Shortcomings were meaningless to her because she emphasized good qualities only.

She also knew that family came first. She realized that while school, work and church activities were important, they didn’t quite compare to a cousin’s dance recital or a grandmother’s retirement party. Amanda attended everything she possibly could and events were more enjoyable if she was there.

Amanda knew that relationships are the single most important aspect of human life. She had this figured out at 19. I’m almost 30, and I am still working on it.

Days before Amanda died; we made plans to meet at our parents’ house for Labor Day weekend. We hadn’t seen each other since April – she was a freshman at East Carolina University, and I was in graduate school. She was living in Greenville, N.C., and I had recently bought a house in Conway, S.C. We were very busy, but we knew that our schedules were going to thin out in the summer, and we would be able to spend a lot of time together.

We waited too long.

Amanda’s death has taught me to tell people that I love them on a daily basis, not just on special occasions. It has taught me that being angry, holding grudges and finding fault with others are all enormous wastes of time. Her death has taught me to always have my bags packed and to be prepared, not just for earthly journeys but also for eternal life. And most importantly, I have learned to never delay spending time with my family because my schedule is hectic. It is less unfortunate to miss a deadline for a project than to lose time with a loved one.

Time, throughout recent years, has been both my enemy and my friend. But time, like God, has healing powers. And because of both, I am confident that Amanda and I will one day be reunited. We will be able to catch up without being interrupted. We’ll be able to talk without distractions. We’ll be able to hug each other tightly without having to rush off to our next destinations. Our schedules will not interfere with our relationship. We will truly have all the time in the world.

About this writer

  • Melissa FaceMelissa Face lives in southern Virginia with her husband, son and daughter. Her stories and essays have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort. Email Melissa at writermsface@yahoo.com.

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