My friend is dying. I just learned of this last week. She was diagnosed around Mother’s Day, and today she’s under hospice care. Cognitively, she’s already gone. She’s a mid-life mother, like me – way too young.
I haven’t seen her in months, not outside of Facebook, anyway. I had recently noticed that she hadn’t posted in a while, not since (I’ve just learned) she had started experiencing symptoms of her rapidly progressing illness.
But I, in my ever-busy, self-centered life, didn’t notice her absence until it was too late.
I can’t tell her how much her words of encouragement meant to me, how her positive spirit always brightened my day, how I aspired to be just like her – both personally and professionally. She was a role model for me. But I never told her. And now I can’t. I assumed I had a lifetime to do so, but I didn’t. And now I’m lamenting the fact that I wasn’t a better friend.
I wonder how many of us have a similar relationship with Mother Earth.
We love her (or at least we say we do), but most of us do so from a distance. We rarely think about her as we drive endless miles running errands, rushing our children from here to there and back again multiple times a day, munching individually pre-packaged snacks for the sake of time, buying bottled water by the case, driving ourselves to our respective offices where we spend eight or ten or twelve hours a day locked within temperature-controlled walls. We may glance at her through a window from time to time admiring the changing leaves or an interesting bird, or just to see whether it’s raining or snowing or hazy or overcast so we know how to dress the next time we venture (briefly) outside.
For most of us, she’s a “Facebook friend.”
Sure, we spend some quality time with her once a year when we relax on the beach for a week or visit a national park, or on the odd free weekend when we take the kids on a hike or attend a scout camping trip.
But in the meantime, our western lifestyle of disposable convenience is inundating her oceans with plastics, toxins, and waste. Our need for energy and housing and shopping complexes is razing her forests and displacing her wildlife. Our desire to get from place to place quickly is polluting her air and warming her atmosphere.
Our Mother Earth is dying, and few of us are paying any attention.
But we will, one day. When planning our treasured summer vacations, we’ll realize that our favorite beach is now under water, or so littered with plastic debris that we can no longer stroll it comfortably. Or that the wildlife that once roamed our favorite park is now absent, either displaced or extinct. We’ll notice when polar bears and penguins and sea turtles and whales are relegated to story books like unicorns and dragons, no longer to be found in the wild. When there are only one or two varieties of seafood available at the grocery store, or too few trees to provide us with sufficient shade or oxygen. Then we’ll finally notice the absence of what was.
But by then, it will be too late.
I should have been a better friend. I should have called, asked for a lunch date, scheduled a girls’ night out, met up for coffee, nurtured my relationship with my friend. It’s a lost opportunity I’ll regret forever.
But we can avoid the same mistake with Mother Earth. It’s not yet too late.
Get politically involved.
Support an organization that makes the world a healthier place.
We can’t all be Mrs. Green and embark on career paths dedicated to saving the planet, but we can all commit to reducing our consumption of single-use plastic, or to supporting local farmers, or to carpooling, or to recycling or upcycling or just plain reducing our massive American consumption habits. We can all do something today to make a difference, to let Mother Earth know that we really do care.
And maybe, just maybe, if we all do something, we can ensure that it’s not too late for her.
Sue Nelko Carr is a freelance writer, editor, blogger and a full-time mother, trying to live a greener life in Pittsburgh, PA.