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Discovering the Meaning of Carpe Diem

The elusive “someday” may never come

By Brenda MahlerPublished 4 months ago 4 min read
Photo credit: The author

When I called our financial consultant this week, I made a point after saying, “Hello, Kevin,” to quickly add, “Randy is alive and healthy. I simply have a question to ask.” He laughed, and I believe I may have heard a heavy sigh of relief on the other end of the phone.

Kevin has been providing financial advice to our family for over 30 years, not because we’ve had much money but because I insisted on saving enough to allow us to retire comfortably. Randy, my husband, humored me because it was easier than arguing. I knew if I did live to see old age, I didn’t want to be an elderly employee.

Any excess money we did earn usually purchased new toys. You see, Randy lives by two beliefs:

  • The man with the most toys wins.
  • Money has no value after you die, so enjoy it.

Randy’s personal experiences have taught him to enjoy every day of this precious life we are granted. His father became paralyzed from the waist down at the age of 47 and lived seven years in a wheelchair with excessive complications. When his father died at the age of 54, my husband lived with the mindset that he would not live past his 54th birthday, so he planned to enjoy what time he had on Earth.

Therefore, as we aged, whenever I called our financial consultant, he answered with the fear of what I might report. Dark humor defined our professional and personal relationships. It became a joke that when I called, I would immediately announce that Randy was still alive and well.

Members of our family and friends have been plagued with medical issues. People who were waiting for “someday” to materialize so they could experience their dream vacation, fulfill a fantasy, or begin to check items off their bucket list missed their opportunity. Many postponed opportunities to live life in the present because they were anticipating the future. And some of them never had the chance to realize their dreams. Therefore, saving money was not at the top of Randy’s list of priorities.


For Randy’s 55th birthday, I reserved a room at a Basque restaurant and planned a party to celebrate my husband’s survival. He had made it past his announced death date. Informed of my plot, family and friends dressed in black. Favorite pictures of the honoree sat on a side table. Funeral programs were dispersed, highlighting the key points of Randy’s life. A poster welcoming guests stood at the entrance to our private dining room. Our daughter made a cake, the grandchildren attended, I wrote a eulogy, and guests paid verbal tribute to the man we love.

We surprised Randy with an opportunity to attend his own memorial while teasing him about his false prediction. He may never make money as a soothsayer, but in this case, I am glad. We all shed tears of laughter at the memories, and I left thinking we should celebrate life more often in this manner.

Funding retirement

Throughout our 40+ years of marriage, our financial consultant encouraged us to save more, invest, and think about the long term. We agreed to balance Randy’s desires and my goals.

When Randy reached the age of 60, he had to decide to retire or continue to teach. Due to a shortage of teachers in our state, the school district offered him a hefty financial incentive for every year he taught past the age of 60 once he met the rule of 90 (age plus years of experience).

When one of his best friends died three days after retiring, Randy decided to retire at the first opportunity and since then, has lived with the tenacious objective to enjoy every breath of every day. We live comfortably on a pension and plan to supplement it with social security in the near future. We are fortunate to be healthy and have enough money to pursue adventures; however, if tomorrow never comes, we have created golden memories.

We bought a motorhome and are traveling

My motivation to save money came from my father’s constant preaching to create a nest egg to fund retirement. I watched him slave to establish savings so he could live securely in old age. Unfortunately, my mother passed at a relatively young age, and he spent the next 20 years talking about what Mom and he had planned to do.

Even with constant encouragement from family, pushing him to live his dreams with his new partner, he slipped into a mindset that he couldn’t afford to travel. Instead, he told stories of his years in the Navy and the countries he visited. His eyes lit up with excitement at the memories.

Dad died near the time I retired, after spending the last few years of his life in his worn leather recliner in front of the TV. He never accomplished his goal of traveling.

To my astonishment, Dad left Randy and me enough money combined with the funds from the sale of our travel trailer to purchase a 40-foot Monaco Diplomat. Each time we begin a new adventure, I silently say thank you to Dad for this gift. The only thing that would have made me happier is if he would have seized the opportunity to travel himself.

Through our fathers’ experiences, we discovered the importance of not putting off until tomorrow what you can do today. We learned the importance of the phrase carpe diem, a Latin expression meaning “seize the day” — enjoy the present rather than worrying about the future.

My husband and I have now been married for 43 years. I understand and support the idea of saving for the future but not at the risk of failing to live for the present. Find time to enjoy life with the people you love, participate in activities, and take risks so that when the door of opportunity closes, the memories will stay alive.

I learned how to cherish life by watching my parents. Their actions taught me how to laugh and survive whatever life throws my way.


About the Creator

Brenda Mahler


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    Brenda MahlerWritten by Brenda Mahler

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