When I called a relative to wish him a happy 65th birthday, he said the day was nothing special. He was just having a quiet day at home.
His good news was that for the first time in four years, he received a birthday card from his estranged daughter. It was just a small, generic card, he says. Totally without sentiment. Not enough of a gesture to heal whatever happened between them. But perhaps it's a start.
I doubt if either of them can say what caused the rift. All that is clear is that a father and daughter who had a close bond throughout life now have nothing to do with each other.
My friend Tim is in somewhat the same situation. But in his case, he knows exactly what caused his estrangement from his only daughter.
At 75, after 11 years of loneliness after his wife died, Tim met someone else. Someone who taught him how to laugh again.
That was OK with Tim's daughter until he decided he was getting married again. She didn't want anyone to take her mother's place in Tim's home.
Tim says her real concern is that a wife would inherit his home the vacation home his daughter wanted to be hers.
"If you go through with the wedding, you will be dead to me," the daughter said. "I will walk out of your life and you will never see me again."
She's kept her word.
Last week Tim had serious cancer surgery. His grandchildren traveled long distances to come see him. But his daughter still refused to come. She told her own children it didn't matter if her father died. He was already dead to her.
What is wrong with people?
Why do they stuff negative feelings inside them? Why do they cling to hurts and grudges like it's something precious to protect?
Don't they know life is short?
Don't they know every second of life is precious? It's too precious to waste.
We were all reminded of that last week when dozens of people in Colorado had their lives changed forever just because they went to a movie premier. Twelve people died and 75 were injured.
Jessica Ghawi was one who lost her life in the senseless massacre. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Ironically, the same thing happened to her last year in a Toronto mall. In a busy food court, one man opened fire.
According to Jessica's postings on face book, seconds before the shooting "a funny feeling" came over her and she stepped outside the food court, a move that kept her from being shot.
This is what she wrote about the experience:
"I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders' faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change.
"I was reminded that we don't know when or where our time on earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath.
"I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday, I understand how blessed I am for every second I am given."
That's what Jessica wrote after her brush with death in Toronto. She could write nothing about her Colorado experience because she died in the movie theater a few minutes after she was shot.
But the message she wrote last year continues to resonate with me. She's right.
Every hug from a family member, every laugh we share with friends are blessings not to be taken for granted. We never know when they will end.
One woman I know tells the heartbreaking story of losing her husband of many years after they had a violent fight. "I grabbed him by the shoulders and yelled some pretty nasty things I didn't mean," she said.
Her husband walked out the door and died of a heart attack an hour later.
"I wish I could take those words back," says the wife. "I never expected it to be the last thing I could ever say to him."
The fragility of life is something we like to overlook. It's scary and some believe it's morbid to think about the short lease we are given on this earth.
But when we do, perhaps we would do a better job of making our words count. Words that heal a rift or words that make someone's day are those we will never regret.
The most precious thing we each have is life itself. It's a gift not meant to be squandered.
We don't know how much time we will be given. But one thing is certain: If we savor every second, we will make best use of the time we have.