They Learned This Lesson For You

The comedian and actor Rob Delaney’s son Henry was healthy and beautiful, but then he got sick. Delaney and his wife Leah didn’t know what to do, so they took Henry to the doctor. It took a long time but eventually, the doctor found that Henry had a brain tumor. They operated on it, and he got better. But sadly the tumor took Henry’s life at just two years old.

It is a terrible and tragic story, one almost identical to the story of Johnny Gunter, in his beautiful 1949 memoir Death Be Not Proud. At the end of the book, Gunther’s mother speaks of her only regret–she wished, she said, that she had loved her son more.

More recently, Rob Delaney was on Marc Maron’s podcast where he shared how his perspective changed following his son Henry’s death. His answer is worth printing here in full:

“I hold my children, and I hold my wife, and I know that they will die. And I know that it could happen before I die. So I know that our time together is finite. It will end. And so I appreciate them so much more. I marvel at the fact that these particular collections of cells coalesced around these souls for a temporary period, and I’m so lucky to get to be here at the same time as the little collection of cells and bones and nostril hairs. And so I really make the most of it in a way I didn’t before. And I wish that that skill didn’t come from something so painful. But it did. That was the price tag for me to receive that gift. And now I have it, and I appreciate it.”


We talk so much here about that reminder of *tempus fugit* (“time flies”) and over at Daily Stoic, that reminder of *memento mori* (“remember you will die”). We talk about that because it’s only when we appreciate how little time we have with our loved ones that we make the most of that finite amount of time. But it doesn’t have to come at the painful price Delaney or Gunther had to pay.

Remind yourself this morning and every morning: this will end. Tempus fugit. Memento Mori. Then go marvel at the collections of cells coalesced around the souls of those you love. Make the most of your time with them.

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