It sits, beckoning but unattainable, just outside the entrance to your long-term care facility — the Visitor parking spot.
You can see it, but don’t dare use it. Every day, in big, block letters, it purrs a siren call as you pass by on your way to the back of the lot. It’s empty and close, and fills you with longing.

I parked there the other day, and a colleague, resentful and exhausted by the long walk from her car, shouted indignantly, “Hey, you can’t park there! That’s the Visitor spot!”

“We’re all just visitors,” I responded in a mock-pastoral tone, and then added an adapted line from that old gospel song: “This world is not our home, we’re just a-passing through.”

She rolled her eyes and kept walking. But maybe in my attempted cleverness, I stumbled onto something important.

Maintaining a visitor mentality might be exactly what we need, an all-caps reminder that time is limited on this planet, and parking here is a privilege to be savored.

Long-term care people understand this well, knowing better than most that life is short, uncertain and moves relentlessly onward.

Recently, I got the sad news that one of my all-time favorite residents, an incredibly wise and wonderful World War II veteran, had just passed away.

Once, in a conversation about taking risks, she told me, “If you want to do something, do it! You only go around once.”
I said it felt like she was lecturing me. “Well, maybe I am!” she responded, with a finger jab in my direction. She knew we’re temporary, and need to make the most of it.

Next time I lose sight of that, I’m going back to the Visitor parking spot. I’ll sit there in violation for a few moments, just to refocus my attention, appreciate the honor of being here, and remember it’s not mine to keep.

Then I’ll repark, of course. Because there are rules.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist andregional Gold Medal winner in Humor Writing in the 2014 American Societyof Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) awards program.