Last year, one of my friends lost her husband. After decades of marriage, they said their final goodbyes. Since I work in a mortuary, I often witness some of the worst days of people's lives. And that day was no different. My friend's husband, the father of her children, was gone. No matter what anyone said or did, nothing could change that unfortunate truth. She was sad, but she had embraced the inevitable. My friend had loved her husband for over fifty years, but she was beginning to accept the fact that he would never come home.
Lessons from my grieving friend
“One day, you'll sit where I sit.” She spoke to me in a shaky voice. And although her words were cryptic, I knew exactly what she meant. She meant that one day I would lose the people I love most. I listened intently to what she was saying.
“One day, you'll sit where I sit and you won't believe how the time flew by.” I knew she was right. I had already begun to notice the quickened pace of life that older folks are always talking about. After all, I have witnessed it firsthand with my own children. It seems like they were just babies a moment ago. In a few months, my oldest daughter will be four.
“One day, you'll look back and have only memories to cherish and hold onto.” I continued to listen to my friend as she spoke. I could tell that she had a message to convey to me that day, and I wanted to take it all in. “I would give anything to have my husband back for just one day. I would trade every dollar I have, my home, and everything I own.” She moved uncomfortably around in her seat, knowing that her wishes would go unanswered. What she truly wanted was impossible. Death is final, and there was nothing she could do to change the fact that he was gone.
“Be careful with your time, young lady. It's precious.” I will remember the words she spoke for the rest of my life.
“One day you'll look back and realize that it's the only thing you really ever had.”
To this day, I have never heard anything truer in my life. Time is so precious. It is everything. We all have a limited amount of it… and once it's gone, there is absolutely nothing we can do to get more. And to make matters worse, none of us knows how much time we have left.
My job in a mortuary
Working in a mortuary has taught me so many things. I have learned that life can change — or end — in an instant. I have learned that a twist of fate can alter the entire course of someone's life. I have learned that life isn't always fair, and many people die far before their time. There are no easy answers, and the families left behind are often never the same again.
Working in a mortuary has also changed me in more ways than I can express. The unique perspective I've gained has made me more conscious about how I spend my time and much more careful with how I spend the money I earn. I have come to realize that money truly is time, whether I choose to like that arrangement or not.
Money can buy time
The fact that we are all going to die is certainly depressing, but we do have choices while we're still here. We can still buy time. Being frugal with the money we earn can mean retiring decades earlier. It can mean turning down overtime and enjoying time with family and friends instead. It can mean not having to take a second job or being able to work part-time. Having money can also allow you to hire people to do the things you don't want to spend time doing yourself. Being frugal can be the path toward freedom and independence and away from struggle and discontent.
I like my job, but I realize now that every dollar I earn is a moment that I will never get back. Every hour I spend working is time away from the things and people I love. I cannot change this fact, but I can choose to be very frugal with the money that I earn. And at this point in my life, each dollar I earn is literally paid for with moments away from my children. Therefore, I am determined to make those dollars count. I pick pennies up off the street. I sell stuff I don't want. I make the most of all that we have, and I always try to remember what that money really means.
So what now?
I am only in my thirties, and I hope to have many decades ahead of me. But nobody knows for sure. If I'm lucky, I'll get to make years of priceless memories with my family and friends. I hope to turn dollars into fortunes by saving and investing all that I can. I want to use my frugal lifestyle to buy time… and I want to enjoy every second of it.
I will never forget the conversation I had with my friend. I will always remember the lesson she taught me. Her words were a precious gift. I know that now, and I am more serious than ever about getting the most out of life that I can.
My friend was right. One day I just may sit where she sits. One day, many years from now, I might be longing for the years I am living right now. When that day comes, I'm sure I will want to trade everything I have for one more day, one more moment, or one more hug. I don't want to have any regrets. I hope to look back and know that I made the most out of every second I had.
Our time is invaluable
Life is a precious gift, and it's moving faster now than ever before. I'm still young, but I'm determined to make the most out of my money and my time. And I am going to enjoy the moments with my family, knowing that one day the memories will be all that's left. Money comes and goes, but time is priceless. I will always treasure the lesson I learned from my friend. “Be careful with your time, young lady. It's precious.”
Author: Holly Johnson
Holly Johnson is a credit card expert, award-winning writer, and mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting, and travel. In addition to serving as contributing editor for The Simple Dollar and writing for publications such as Bankrate, U.S. News and World Report Travel, and Travel Pulse, Johnson owns Club Thrifty and is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love.