What Mismatched Socks Taught Me About Living

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What Mismatched Socks Taught Me About Living

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(Editor's Note: We welcome Marlys, who cared for her husband, to our blogging team. You can connect with her on her profile page: @marlys.)

My husband, Gary, and I were back in Hospice House after breaking out for two weeks. Love found us there, because there is no hiding from love.

Visitors, food, chai tea in cheery red cups, gift baskets. And these groovy mismatched socks with the manufacturer’s tag that read, “Life’s too short to wear matching socks.”




On what would be the last day of Gary's life on earth, I migrated back and forth between his hospital bed and the window seat overlooking a garden blanketed in snow.


I held his hand. Stroked his cheek. Ran my fingers through his hair that had grown in puppy-soft after chemo. Reassured him that I would be OK, that he could go home to heaven.


And then—as it took an interminably long time for him to take his next breath—I found myself thinking, Oh, but not just yet.


Selfish me.


The manufacturer’s tag that accompanied the socks reminded me that life’s too short for a plethora of things:


1. Life’s too short to live it fearfully, to not get off the couch and create adventure.


Ironically, the ten cancer years were the best years of our marriage. Maybe because Gary and I created more adventure, and took more road trips, and had more fun than in any other season.


2. Life’s too short to not do something that matters with our remaining days on earth.


After we worked through the initial devastation and anxiety and self-pity, we said, Wouldn’t it have been nice, back at the time of diagnosis, to learn how others with cancer were living proactively? Particularly I wanted to hear from a married couple, because I wanted to know how to be a courageous, fierce, proactive caregiver.


And so we decided to become that couple. Establishing a non-profit, writing for grant funding, presenting our hope-filled message across the country. We were way out of our league. But we persisted in bringing hope and encouragement to others dealing with cancer.


3. Life’s too short to not speak words of love and affirmation to those in our care or influence.


Gary and I had the luxury of time to say everything we wanted to say to each other. Which is a reminder to speak those words – now – to the people in our sphere of love and influence. Because there is no guarantee of tomorrow with them.


4. Life’s too short to count what is lost instead of counting what remains.


Even with loss heaped upon loss, there was still much that remained. This breath in; this breath out. These gracious children. These endearing grandkids. These family members and friends showing so much love and care for us. This beautiful central Oregon. One more day together.


5. Life’s too short to not express gratitude.


If I challenged you to list 10 things you are grateful for in this moment — this very moment — what would your list look like?


Here’s my in-the-moment list:




  1. Fireplace flickering

  2. My cute little guesthouse — that I could afford to move back to Oregon because of the miracle of this place

  3. Nature views out every window: Extravagant autumn colors against evergreen backdrop

  4. Taste of homemade pumpkin spice tea latte

  5. The gift of an early retirement to write full-time

  6. Piano-and-strings music playing on Pandora and ears that hear well

  7. Healthful foods in my fridge and cupboards

  8. Adult children who believe in my dreams

  9. Gorgeous, compassionate, smart, sassy, knitting, coffee-and-tea-drinking girlfriends

  10. A hike through fall colors that will commence as soon as this blog is done



And that’s just in this moment.

I plan to wear these socks long after they sprout holes as a colorful reminder that life is too short to not sit up and pay attention to all the good that surrounds me.


Yes, even in sorrow and loss.



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