“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is not.”
Henry van Dyke
For those who aren’t familiar with Grosvenor Square in London, there’s a garden next to the US Embassy in memory of those who died in the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. The centrepiece is an oak pavilion which bears the words: “Grief is the price we pay for love”. It was part of a message from the Queen read out at remembrance service held in New York a week after that dreadful day.
I’m told the words aren’t actually the Queen’s but those of Dr Colin Murray Parkes, a psychiatrist based at St Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham and a renowned authority on grief and mourning. Either way, those words are particular poignant for me just now. My dear father had a severe stroke in August and deteriorated rapidly over the next five months. I was at his bedside as he passed away peacefully in a nursing home in Birmingham yesterday morning.
Over Christmas I was particularly moved by a post by my fellow investment blogger Michael Batnick, in which he recalls the sadness of watching his mother die. The post is life-affirming and full of wisdom. The important thing, says Michael, is that life is very precious; we should enjoy life because we only get one shot at it; this is not a dress rehearsal. In the words of the late Randy Pausch, “time is all you have — and you may find one day that you have less than you think.”
Time, I agree, is extremely valuable. What I would give to spend a single hour with my dad, before his final illness, now! Of course we should try to make the very most of whatever time we have. Investor education and financial planning, I firmly believe, are all about helping people to do just that.
But for me there’s something, ultimately, far more precious even than time — and that, quite simply, is the giving and receiving of love. Of course the two are connected; an important way of expressing your love for someone is to give them your time. But telling someone you love them, and receiving their love back, costs nothing and hardly takes any time at all, and yet is infinitely more valuable than either time or money.
The last few weeks and days have been hugely draining in every way. Watching the life of a loved gradually slipping away before your eyes, and being powerless to do anything about it, is like a form of torture. But one consolation I can take from this whole horrible episode is that it has given me and my family the opportunity to say things — not just to my dad, but also to each other — that frankly should have been said far more often over the years than they were.
We Brits are notoriously bad at expressing our feelings, but I’m sure we’d live happier and more fulfilling lives if we practised a little more often. After all, who knows what the future holds? By the time you realise that important things have gone unsaid, it may be too late to say them.
So yes, plan to spend more time with those who are most important to you. By all means, go ahead and book that family cruise. But, above all else, make time — preferably today — to tell those who matter just how much they mean to you.
Yes, grief is a huge price to pay for love. Right now the pain and sadness feel completely overwhelming. And as Michael says, although time aids the healing process, grief leaves a wicked scar. But what I’m trying to remind myself is that, however ghastly my own grief may seem today, it is most definitely a price worth paying. It really is better by far to have loved and lost than never to have properly loved at all.
A truly lovely man