“I would argue that nothing gives life more purpose than the realization that every moment of consciousness is a precious and fragile gift.” ~Steven Pinker
He was splayed out in the middle of the road. The paramedics had yet to arrive. That was the scene on our way to meet some friends.
Over dinner, they relayed the tragic story of their neighbor’s twenty-something son who was killed recently in a motorcycle accident.
Two others lost their lives in an instant on a nearby suburban road.
An acquaintance told me about the fatal hiking accident of a young man who was making his mark on the world and left it with so much more to give.
My friend’s father is fighting for his life against COVID.
All of this in the past week.
I know what you are thinking. This is SOOOO depressing. I know. But it’s life. Life is fragile. It can end in an instant. I know from experience.
My parents were taking care of our young children while my husband and I were on a company-sponsored trip on the other side of the Atlantic. We were so excited to catch an earlier flight for the last leg of our return so we could surprise our kids as they got off the school bus.
As we pulled up, our home was eerily quiet. No one was home. We entered and found a note on the counter saying, “Bridget we are sorry for your loss. There is food in the fridge.”
Panic ensued as we made frantic phone calls that went unanswered. What in the hell happened? Where are our kids!? Finally, the phone rang. “Bridget, Dad died.”
If you are like me you probably don‘t spend time thinking about your mortality. It’s uncomfortable. Yet, it’s one thing that is certain in this life. That, along with our choice of how we show up and navigate each day.
As I reflect on the years since my dad died, I think of all the missed milestones that have marked my children’s lives, both big and small. From the fun, everyday moments to the can’t miss celebrations. This year in particular is bittersweet. It marks the high school graduation and college start of my youngest; another important milestone that we will celebrate without him, and it makes me sad.
But he’s been with us all along the way in spirit. Sometimes I hear his voice. Sometimes I sense him around my house. I can still feel his warm hugs. And see the twinkle in his eye when he really saw me for me.
We continue to tell the stories. To remember who he was as a dad and a grandpa. We share his goofy idiosyncrasies, like his love for peanut butter, lettuce, and mayonnaise sandwiches. I know. But he loved it!
It’s the little things that we remember about people. How they make us feel. Whether they are friends, family, or strangers.
Recently, before a class I taught, a student bolted in the door and stormed past me. No check-in. No hello. She kept going when I asked her to stop. She eventually made her way back to me and all was good. Yet, I could feel the frenetic energy oozing from her.
I’ve been her. Many times. And I don’t want to be like that. I consciously choose to live with no regrets. To acknowledge the people I encounter with care and kindness. To be aware of the energy I am putting out there.
I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I hurt others. But I continue to try to do my best to be intentional and thoughtful in my interactions and make amends when I falter.
When our mind is wrapped up in work, bills, responsibilities, to-do lists, kids, grandkids, and more, it’s easy to go through the motions of life. Sometimes the days become routine, and one rolls into another. We’ve got things to do and little time to get it all done.
It can be challenging to quiet the chatter in our head, to look at the person in front of us, and to speak, listen, and interact with them like they matter. Often with strangers, and even more so, with our loved ones.
They are the ones we take for granted. They understand our moods. They know our shortcomings. They forgive us time and time again. But is that what we want?
If you died today, what do you want those closest to you to know? Do they know how you feel about them? How much they mean to you? Do they understand how important they are to you?
Tell them. Leave nothing unsaid. You never know if today is your last.