Mark Ballard

Discovering what really matters

The older I become the more I realize things don’t really matter. Prized possessions that once defined me have now retreated to a more manageable place in my heart. Oh, I still love beautiful things, but their luster doesn’t shine quite as brightly as it once did.

Family, friends, health and life have always been very important to me but, as the years fly by, they have pushed their way to front of my heart. I suppose the older you become the more you realize just how fragile life is. Like a very fine piece of porcelain, life is very vulnerable.

Speaking of porcelain, just the other day, my wife Debra and I, were discussing an expensive piece of porcelain that I adored. It was an antique candle stick that once belonged to a very dear friend of ours. Realistically painted, accented with gold and dressed in the fanciest of garb, stood a lady with a gentleman kneeling at her feet.

Completely formed out of fine porcelain, the couple was nestled in a rose garden near a column and made up most of the candle stick. The part that held the two candles curled and twined out of the top. It was quite a sight to behold when it was placed on a side board in our dining room complete with burning candles.

To say I treasured it would be an understatement. One afternoon many years ago that all changed. I heard the loud crash all the way in the back of the house. While cleaning, Debra didn’t realize the top portion of the candle stick was held in place by piece of cork carved to fit exactly in the bottom part. When she picked it up by the top portion to dust it, the main part fell onto a glass table breaking into a million pieces.

“Is everything OK?” I asked Debra already making my way to the living room. “No!” she said. What had happened was evident as I entered the room. There, in a pile of fractured pieces was the thing I had loved so much. I’m going to be honest. It took me a while to recover. I didn’t yell at Debra, but I didn’t want to be in the same room with her either. “It’s just a thing.” I said to myself over and over again. It was definitely a lesson I needed to learn. In the big picture it was nothing but a thing.

I’m a work in process, but with each year, life has a way of showing me what’s really important. As many of you know, a few years back I watched in horror as Debra fell down some steps badly injuring her knee. Her way of life changed forever. Multiple surgeries trying to fix her knee have left her unstable and requiring the use of a cane.

Last summer I was once again shown first-hand how fragile life is. While riding bikes on a hot, humid July afternoon, my friend, Stephanie, fell off her bike and suffered a major brain injury. In the blink of an eye, she went from riding her bike to being in neuro-intensive care. She has been on a long road to recovery.

Just in the past few months, several of my friends have been diagnosed with major illnesses. Our health that we often take for granted can change in an instant. When we are younger, we think we are indestructible but, as the years pass by at the speed of light, we realize that is definitely not the case.

So, as this brand-new year is upon us, we need to love more and hate less. We need to spend quality time with our family and friends. We need to rid ourselves of negativity and only surround ourselves with joy. We need to do all we can to stay healthy because it’s not the things we own or accumulate that define us. It’s the quality of our lives! Just think of how much better our world would be if we all practiced living our lives this way. Life is precious!

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments by calling 478-757-6877 or emailing; follow him at creates; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.