I sat heartbroken in a church pew a thousand miles from home and watched my husband, the love of my life, eulogize his father. Three weeks earlier, my own father passed away. Though we had very different relationships with our fathers and the grief felt individual, there was a combined sorrow at the loss. The loss of life certainly, but more urgently that we were deprived of time. Time to say all the things we needed to say.
Grief allows for a paramount shift in your priorities. Death is rarely top of mind for people and this confidence tricks us into thinking we have plenty of time. The past few weeks made me want to grab onto my children and try to articulate the things I’d learned.
At 42 years old, it shouldn’t come as a shock but people really will surprise you. They will pitch in and help out and ease your burden without being asked. They will show up. You will comprehend with crystal clarity who your friends are. They will bend over backwards to let you know they are there, even if they can’t be physically present. They will call and text and continue to check in to make sure you are okay. They will send you funny jokes and you will save them and when you are ready to laugh, you will.
And some people won’t show up at all. They will send a brief text when they should have called. They will call when they could have shown up. And it will leave you feeling bitter and angry. You will reevaluate their seat at your table. But at the end of the day every person is an intricate web of abilities, fears, characteristics, and capacity to give. Let it settle into your bones and serve as a reminder to show up more for others.
As much as you are capable, don’t leave things unsaid. It is gut-wrenching to sit with someone at the end of their life and wonder if you could have done more. Called more, loved harder, let go of something petty. It sounds contrite but tell the ones you love how you feel about them, often. Be specific, not what they were but why. How they made you feel about yourself and their significance in this world. It’s true what they say about not always getting a second chance.
Don’t settle in your relationships, romantic or otherwise. I’m not saying it will never happen. At some point you will settle and someone will settle on you. Relationships morph along with the person you are at the moment. They are ever changing. The more you know who you are, the easier it will be to decipher between the two.
Be passionate about something, anything. If it’s not your career, let it be a hobby. Or parenthood. Or travel. Something that warrants you take a risk and forces you to put yourself out there. One of my favorite quotes says, “People don’t care enough. They don’t get worked up enough. They don’t get angry enough. They don’t get passionate enough. I’d rather somebody hate what I do than be indifferent to it.” Allow yourself to be scared sometimes. That’s where the magic happens.
Finally, know your life is a gift. Everyone is guilty of thinking, “I just need to get through this week,” or “Next month will be better.” Death reminds us that life is valuable but also temporary. Don’t waste your life second-guessing your past or denying who you are. Stop worrying so much. I spent years in my youth second guessing myself and you know where it got me? Nowhere. Worry steals joy, end of story. You will always get a second chance if you are brave enough to gamble in the first place.