my brother-in-law opened the bottom drawer of my sisters bureau and lifted out a tissue-wrapped package. this, he said, is not a slip. this is lingerie. he discarded the tissue and handed me the slip.

  it was exquisite, silk, handmade and trimmed with a cobweb of lace. the price tag with an astronomical figure on it was still attached.

  jan bought this the first time we went to new york, at least 8 or 9 years ago. she never wore it. she was saving it for a special occasion.

  well, i guess this is the occasion.

  he took the slip from me and put it on the bed, with the other clothes we were taking to the mortician. his hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, then he slammed the drawer shut and turned to me, dont ever save anything for a special occasion. every day you re alive is a special occasion.

  i remembered those words through the funeral and the days that followed when i helped him and my niece attend to all the sad chores that follow an unexpected death. i thought about them on the plane returning to california from the midwestern town where my sisters family lives. i thought about all the things that she hadnt seen or heard or done. i thought about the things that she had done without realizing that they were special.

  im still thinking about his words, and theyve changed the weeds in the garden. im spending more time with my family and friends and less time in committee meetings. whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experience to savour, not endure. im trying to recognize these moment now and cherish them.

  im not saving anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special. event such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, the first camellia blossom… i wear my good blazer to the market if i feel like it. my theory is if i look prosperous, i can shell out $28. 49 for one small bag of groceries without wincing. im not saving my good perfume for special parties; clerks in hardware stores and tellers in banks have noses that function as well as my party going friends.

  someday and one of these days are losing their grip on my vocabulary. if its worth seeing or hearing or doing, i want to see and hear and do it now. im not sure what my sister wouldve done had she know that she wouldnt be here for the tomorrow we all take for granted.

  i think she would have called family members and a few close friends. she might have called a few former friends to apologize, and mend fences for past squabbles. i like to think she would have gone out for a chinese dinner, her favorite food. im guessing. ill never know.

  its those little things left undone that would make me angry if i knew that my hours were limited. angry because i put off seeing good friends whom i was going to get in touch with someday. angry because i hadnt written certain letters that i intended to write one of these days. angry and sorry that i didnt tell my husband and daughter often enough how much i truly love them.

  im trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives. and every morning when i open my eyes, i tell myself that every day, every minute, every breath truly, is... a gift from god.