I barely turn off the car engine and I hear the loud barks echoing from inside the house. As I come in, the usual ritual starts: Our miniature Schnauzer jumps up and down, crying and wagging her tail, showing the extent of her love and devotion.
No, I haven’t been gone for weeks or even days. My trip to the grocery store took less than an hour this time.
Indeed, it doesn’t matter how long I am gone, nor if I accidentally step on her pawn, my dog’s display of affection has never changed for the past nine years. Regardless of whether I ignore her presence beside the stove while cooking dinner, or caress her belly when watching TV, her eyes always send the same message: I love you. I need you. I miss you. You are precious to me.
I remembered my dog’s “welcome home” ritual earlier this week, while riding south BR-101, Brazil’s main interstate. My mom and I were on our way to see my 96-year-old grandmother, one of the many people I visited during my short time here. I’ve been in the country for the past two weeks, visiting my Brazilian family, this time without my husband and children. It’s the first time I come alone since I moved to America 18 years ago.
Of all the times I’ve visited, this one has been especially emotional to me. Since I’ve been on my own, I have received and been able to offer undivided attention to my family. Everywhere I go, the display of love and appreciation fills my heart with joy. It’s a beautiful “welcome home” ritual in every house I visit, and each embrace conveys what a thousand words cannot express.
Living 6,000 miles away from my country and loved ones has changed the way I see all the important relationships in my life. I don’t take the time spent with my parents for granted anymore. Each laughter shared with my siblings and each moment with my best friend are held close to my heart, since it will be another year before we see each other again.
Many years ago, I was riding down I-75 to my first job in downtown Atlanta, praying and asking God to help me cope with the emptiness I felt inside. My mom had just returned home from a visit to America, and I was thinking about the days she spent at our home. Had I shown her the depth of my love? Had I been slow to judge and quick to forgive? Had I been wise and picked my battles, instead of allowing small aggravations to steal our precious time together? I knew the answer. Her visit could have been much better, had I been just a bit wiser.
Various situations played in my mind, when I spotted a sticker on the window of the car in front of mine. The simple words, written in bold white letters, spoke volumes: “No Regrets.”
Given the other Surf and Rock Climbing stickers that the young lady collected on her car window, one could easily understand her meaning: Seize the day. Be adventurous. Don’t miss out on life.
But as I thought about those words, a deep conviction settled in, and “No Regrets” has become my life motto ever since. No, I have not climbed any mountains or surfed any waves since then. That day, however, while thinking about my relationships and how fast life passes by, I decided to live more intentionally, forgive much, choose my battles wisely, and, most of all, grab every opportunity to treasure those I love.
It’s amazing how pointless certain arguments can become, and how unimportant small differences can be, when you have to say goodbye to the ones you love. Should we live as if they were gone tomorrow, or simply if we could not hold them for another year, would petty things bother us so? I think not.
May God help us seize each day with our loved ones as if it were the last, and strive to live with no regrets.
Patricia Holbrook is a Christian author, blogger and international speaker. Her book, “Twelve Inches,” is on sale at Barnes & Nobles, Amazon and retailers worldwide. Visit her website www.soaringwithHim.com. For speaking engagements and comments, email pholbrook@soaringwithHim.com.