One year ago, 2 friends, hundreds of miles apart, each went to sleep under the same moon. The next morning, the sun came up. One of those friends woke up and sleepily crawled out from under the covers. The other friend did not wake up. The gravity of that situation hangs heavy, as I was the one to awaken, and one of my dearest friends did not. I wrote about it a year ago, and this year, the sadness still remains. It is less fresh, but it remains. The sadness of a life taken too soon, one with promise, and dreams of adventure, all snuffed out in a freak accident. People don’t generally think they will go to bed at a mere 40 years old and simply not wake up. We tell ourselves “tomorrow is another day”, or “I’ll take care of it tomorrow”. For some, there isn’t a tomorrow, and the thought haunts me.
When my mother passed away, she too seemed way to young to just disappear from my life. Hers was a drawn out process of cancer slowly stripping away her life, but even still, I had refused to give up home. I held strong to my childhood belief that my mother was invincible, the glue that held everything together. When she died, I was left feeling in pieces, my glue having disappeared. I have picked my life up and soldiered on from the experience, because I know she would want me to. She would want me to live big, just as I would want the same for my kids. I did become fixated on death, perhaps somewhat unhealthily so. I researched it, looked at pictures of it, became slightly obsessed with it. Death was such a focus for me for a while that i don’t think I did much living.
It’s a strange change of dynamic when you go from attending funerals for elderly people, such as grandparents, to attending those of your own parents, or friends’ parents. It’s particularly jarring when that then changes to attending funerals of your friends and peers. Just 2 weeks ago, an acquaintance of mine passed away just a couple of weeks after his 40th. Lymphoma took him. Friends who knew him were visibly shaken, as was I. I wouldn’t say we were close, but he was a wonderful person who always had a smile for everyone. He was had a wife he was madly in love with, a strong group of friends, and he was one of those people who just kind of stood out as a good person. I don’t think a lot of people knew many details of his illness, and his passing shocked us all. It seemed out of the blue, and the lingering sentiment was “he’s just so YOUNG”. It hit a bit too close to home for many of us. When I discussed his passing with a mutual friend, she was visibly shaken. He was our age (or close to it) and we all felt we had so much time to live, to do all those things we had procrastinated or put off. The “I will, I’m going to, I’ll get around to it” things just got popped to the forefront of “I may not ever get to if I don’t do it now”.
The hardest part for me is watching these big life forces so easily snuffed out, knowing it could happen to me, and knowing I have children. Those kids and my husband are my world. I am fiercely protective of them, and they are the best part of my life. To think of missing even a day of their lives leaves me upset. To think of missing all those key moments in their lives…first days of school, proms, loves, weddings, babies, and all those little moments, giggles, and smiles in between, leaves me distraught. Every hug, every “I love you Mommy”, every smile and silly face. I don’t want to miss a single one. I want to absorb all those little moments and memorize them so they are always with me. Every hug I give the kids, I try to hold on a little longer to take in the moment. I often wonder if my mom felt the same way after she got sick and knew the end was coming. I think she was really friggin pissed about it, to be honest. Once you see people lose their life, you sure do realize how wonderful the experience can be. Sure, sometimes it’s shitty, and we all have problems and issues. But how magical to wake up each day and say “today I will…”
Yesterday I sat in the same chair I was in when I heard about my friend passing. I saw the same people post on facebook about their feelings about it, which were as sad as mine. In solidarity, we agreed that in a year, it really didn’t suck too much less to have lost a friend. I did feel that I needed to focus on celebration of life rather than spending time mourning even more than I had, so I decided to make the evening a nice one, I left work and picked up my daughter (my son was out with his cousin) and the two of us had some girl time. It wasn’t smooth the whole time, she was on the cranky side, and a bit whiny, but I reminded myself that I had some time just with her, and we managed to turn the night around to laughter and smiles. We went for dinner and I ate slower, really enjoying each bite. She asked to come sit next to me, and we curled up together on the bench and ate happily. Just me and my girl. We came home and dragged out the bedtime routine a little. I treated her to some new Pj’s, and we curled up with not one, but two books. One was a British one, so i read it in my British accent, which she enjoyed. We took selfies with my phone while she made silly faces and made sure her favorite toy, Ducky was at the forefront. She smothered my cheeks with kissed and asked for extra hugs, which she got. She soon fell into a deep sleep with a smile on her tiny face, and I wandered downstairs, thinking about how grand life is,
I can’t bring back the ones I have lost. I have mourned not only for my loss, but for their losses and the losses of all those who loved them. I can celebrate life though, not only theirs, but mine as well. Some days, it’s hard to choose the happy. I’ve had to circle my wagons, isolate myself from life for a bit and take some time to make decisions about how I want to live my life. The past 2 weeks have cemented that feeling for me. I’m coming out of it all now, happier, drama free, and determined to live as much as I can. I want to say yes as much as I can, to try new things, to experience all I can. I want to put my phone down and be in the moment more. I may end up with fewer pictures, but will have more memories of being in the moment. I want my kids to know that I lived hard, I loved hard, and I made the most of my time here on Earth. Every day I wake up is a good day.
I hope every day you wake up is a good day for you too. If it’s not, you can make it into one. That’s the best thing about life, it changes all the time. Every little change you make is a ripple in a pond. It may start off small but it gets bigger and bigger as it goes. Try something new, do something you’ve always wanted to. Every day you have the opportunity to take a step in a new direction. Fear is what usually holds us back, but the ability is there to make a tiny step forward (or a giant leap). Clear out toxic people who don’t wish you well. Good people who support you? Find more of those, and keep them close to your heart. Call a friend you haven’t seen in a while and tell them you love them. Hug your loved ones longer. Do what you love.
A year ago, only one of those friends woke up.
The time is now.