When Caitlin was little, she liked to use me as her personal jungle-gym. She still loves to sit on my lap and cuddle, but lately I’ve been telling her she’s getting too big and the weight of her is starting to hurt my legs. I make her sit next to me instead.

When Kiera was little, she liked to lean against me, and use my feet as her personal head-rest. As she’s grown, she’s gotten into the habit of lying on my feet whenever they stop moving. Lately, I’ve been telling her to move, especially when I’m trying to work in the kitchen and she’s right underfoot. I worry about accidentally stepping on her.

When Graidy wants to love me up, he likes to smother me with kisses, hold my hand gently in his mouth, and then nibble at my nose. Lately, I’ve been telling him my nose is not a handle.

For the last few months, I’ve been helping a dear friend go through the process of dying from cancer. As well as being an extraordinary friend, she is a wonderful mother to two children in their very early twenties, a dedicated wife, and an animal lover.

When she and I’d talk about what was happening to her, it wasn’t the dying that bothered her. It was the thought of never being able to hold her children again, or love her husband, or be with her animals.

We’re in the final hours now. She doesn’t recognize anyone and can no longer communicate.

So tonight, as I think of my friend and what matters, my lap is once again Cait’s personal chair, my feet Kiera’s pillow, and my nose Graidy’s handle. Love is precious. Life is fleeting. I gather my loved ones close and hold them tight.