Today I read a really moving post written by the lovely Danielle of Sometimes Sweet, one of my favorite blogs. I realize that I quote/reference her quite a bit, but she’s awesome so I feel that this is acceptable.
The crux of the post, “What are you Waiting For?” is essentially that we too often get so caught up in the day-to-day happenings of life that we forget to tell our loved ones and friends just how much they mean to us. As Danielle so eloquently posits, life has absolutely no guarantees that any of us will be here tomorrow, and thus many of the thoughts, feelings and words that are often relegated to the deep recesses of our mind should be shared with those we love while we are here, in this present moment.
This post really resonated with me for a lot of reasons. I have had a pretty amazing life free of completely hopeless challenges; I have encountered loss, confrontations with my own mortality and moments of life-affirming happiness. All of these events have given me a strong perspective on living for today while simultaneously planning for tomorrow.
If you don’t mind, I’d like to share a few of these events and the impact they’ve had on me in this respect.
When I was four years old, I was diagnosed with Wilm’s Tumor, a kidney tumor most commonly found in young children. By the time they found the tumor it was approximately 16 centimeters around (more or less the size of my head). Thankfully it had not spread, and after a total nephrectomy and 6 months of chemotherapy I was completely cured and have had no problems since. While I have few real memories of this period, I often marvel at the fact that I’ve made it this far with absolutely no complications. Wilm's Tumor has a high cure rate, so my chances were excellent especially given the high quality medical care I received, but regardless I look at the experience as an opportunity to reaffirm how awesome it is to be alive.
When I was seven, I became best friends with a boy in our class, Ernie. We had such an unusually tight bond for children our age that his parents (as recently as 3 or so years ago) told me that they had always expected that one day we’d be married. When we were eight, his leukemia relapsed and he passed 3 days before his 9th birthday. I find it heartbreaking that I can’t remember the sound of his voice, but can hear the voice of my guidance counselor as she told me that he had passed away the night before. And though I only knew him for a few years, and though I haven’t seen him or talked to him in close to twenty years, he is someone that I think about extremely frequently and someone who I feel has had a huge impact on my life.
Ernie is the little boy all the way to the left in the back row...I'm fourth from left in the back row. Cute, eh?
Finally I’d like to talk about my sister-in-law, Jessi. Jessi is one of my favorite people in the world because she is genuine, sweet, and strong. Following years of various health issues Jessi was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 24, just two weeks shy of her wedding (which was two years ago today, Happy Anniversary, Jess!). Jessi took the diagnosis in stride, encountering bumps along the way but coming out on the other side with her health. Doctors were baffled by the fact that she had developed cancer at such a young age with no genetic history, but Jessi has beaten cancer at every turn with a smile almost always on her face and for that, I am so very proud of her.
These events, in my mind, have helped to shape who I am as a person and how I look at the world. Perhaps ironically, my obsessive planning and focus on what’s next has helped me to gain an understanding of how little we know about the future and how "prepared" we should be for the unknown.
When Rob was gone, even prior to deployment, I would say “I love you” every single chance I got. Even before I hung up on him in a fit of anger (which happened with embarrassing frequency), I’d say “I love you” first because I knew both the fragility of our situation as well as the fragility of life in general. Now that he’s home and I have learned the full extent of his experience, I tell him at least 20 times daily what he means to me, either while cuddling in bed and gazing into his eyes or through letters that I write him throughout my day. Sometimes I hold him tightly and breathe in everything about him, so that I have a moment in time to return to should I, heaven forbid, ever lose him. If something happens to me tomorrow, I want no question to be raised in his mind that I truly loved him and that he meant the world to me.
The same holds true for my amazing family and friends. After watching my paternal grandparents pass away in 2009 and 2010, it became clear to me how relatively little time I have left to spend with either of my parents, and, for all I know, my sisters and my niece. As a result I will take time out of my day every so often to let them know that I’m thinking about them, that I love and appreciate them. They all do the same thing which warms my heart to no end.
I find that I even let Cypress know how much I appreciate her. Sometimes when we’re alone on a walk or hanging out on the couch I will say out loud, “I love you Cypress, and I will miss you when you’re gone.” I know that I have a woefully short amount of time with her and though she can’t understand my words, I like to think that she understands my sentiment.
|I appreciate your sentiment!|
But though I do take time out of my day every now and then to let those around me know what I’m thinking and feeling, like all people, I know I could do this more. Danielle’s post served as a small reminder to me about the fragility of life and how important it is for each of us to live in the present moment and not forget that which is most important in our lives.
I certainly hope that this post doesn’t come across as negative; I feel quite the opposite after writing it. Though death and loss are never easy to deal with, they can also have the sometimes unintended effect of allowing us to truly celebrate life and those around us. The best any of us can hope for is to live a life free of regrets and missed words.
And check out Danielle’s blog if you haven’t; she said this much more simply, yet more eloquently, than I did.