1. Life is Short. We hear other people say it all the time. And in the grand scheme of things, it is indeed short. Very short. As one of my Granny’s friends at the nursing home says, “It’s like you go to sleep one night and wake up 20 years older. I don’t even know where all the time went. It just went!” And as fast as it goes, rest assured there never seems to be enough of it. When our time here draws nigh, we seem to always want more of it and when our loved ones’ time is up, we find ourselves wishing they had more time as well. Sorry folks, it’s not gonna happen. I’d love to sit here and say otherwise, but when our time is up, it’s up. No do-overs. No replays. No bargaining with The Man upstairs. If you want to spend time with your children, do it. If you want to swim with the dolphins, do it. Want to write a book? Do it! Go back to school? Do it! Parasailing? Go for it! Which leads me to Number 2.
2. No Regrets. All of us will have 2 dates on our headstones: The day we came into this world and the date we leave. Which do you think will matter the most when you breathe your last breath? NEITHER. The thing people will always remember is the little dash between the two. That little dash represents everything you did and didn’t do during the time between those 2 breaths. Don’t wait until you find out you’re dying to decide to do something. Do it now. While you’re still able. Because you’re already dying. We are all in the proces of dying right this second. Some of us are just doing it faster than others. Life has a 100% mortality rate! The very thing you’re dying from may not even be what actually kills you! That’s what happened with Daddy. So do the things on your bucket list and when those are complete and you’re still breathing, add a few more, etc. Don’t let death sneak up on you and then sit there thinking about all the things you wish you had done or hadn’t done and the things you wish you had done differently or the things you had said. Which brings me to Number 3.
3. Swallow Your Pride. Repeat after me, “I’m sorry.” “I forgive you.” Once you master those two very important phrases, your life will go a lot smoother. Will having to eat crow or apologize for things you’ve done and said be a tasty treat? Probably not. Who am I kidding? It definitely is not. But the repairing of a relationship is sweet. Don’t allow squabbles to go on for years or even weeks or days just because you think the other person should apologize to you first or they should do something first (like pick up a phone) before you can do anything or speak to that other person. Maybe that other person is thinking the same thing and they’re waiting on YOU to make the first move. Does it mean it’s right to always have to do things first or to have to apologize when you’ve done nothing wrong? No, it’s not. But if you cherish that person and the relationship, you will do it. You have a choice to make. You can always be right or you can be happy. And not being able to say the things you want to say because someone is almost comatosed or has passed away is not a situation you want to be in. It’s heartwrenching not being able to say all the things you’ve wanted to say during your lifetime but for whatever reason never did and have that person not be able to respond back.
4. Boundaries. Never. Ever. Ever allow someone else to dictate who you can and cannot have in your life (unless you’re 12 and then, well you still have to listen to your parents…Sorry). But seriously…if somebody has a problem with you spending time with people you love or the people in your family who were a part of your life LONG before they ever came along, then they are the ones with the problem and you are going to have to do one of 3 things:(1) Kick them to the curb. They probably have emotional/psych probs anyway and this is a form of control and an attempt to isolate you from family & friends who could actually help you or perhaps talk some sense into you. (2) See your loved ones anyway and just deal with the consequences. Let the other person scream, yell, throw things, threaten to kick you out, whatever, and just go abt your life, avoiding them, until they cool down. Or lie about where you’ve been and who you’ve been with (but lying is a no-no to God so that’s not really an option) Note: you will probably have to do this forever until you finally do either Number 1 or 3. (3) Set boundaries. You will just have to sit this person down and set them straight. Tell them that you plan on continuing having this person in your life regardless of what they think or feel because they are important to you and that they are important to you as well but you will not tolerate being controlled or isolated and that you are more than willing to include them in things that you are doing. And if they want to show out, well, see (1). I spent too many years, arguing and fighting over stupid miniscule things that were nothing more than my spouse telling me who I couldn’t see or talk to or else he was gonna pack my “crap” and move me right in with them b/c I wouldn’t be welcomed in his house any more. Looking back I wish I had just packed up and left but I didn’t. Unable to work and 3 kids, I had nowhere to really go. Knowing what I know now, I think I would’ve lived in my dad’s shed rather than have someone dictate who I am allowed to associate with. So when Daddy got sick this time, I had to flat out take a stand and stick with it. Be prepared for that.
5. Little Things Matter. Little things truly are the BIG things. When Daddy was in ICU for those 3 weeks I was able to spend a lot of time with him. Did we spend hours in deep thought or discuss the secrets of the universe? No. It was mostly spent feeding him ice chips and just holding each other’s hand and saying “I love you” back and forth and apologizing and telling the other one that it was okay, they’re forgiven. Some times we sat and did nothing except just Be. Just existed in each other’s presence. Occasionally he would squeeze my hand and I’d squeeze back and place it to my lips. And then he’d go back to sleep. Speaking of little things, have you ever been so thirsty that scabs form all over your lips and tongue and roof of your mouth? It happens. He couldn’t have anything to drink for a while. But I will never forget the first time he was able to take a sip of his smuggled Coca-Cola! To him it was like heaven. We dont think abt little things like that everyday–about something as small as being able to drink what we want when we want it. But now’s a good time to start. Daddy wanted nothing more than to go home to sit on the porch and drink a cup of coffee. How many times have you sat on your porch wishing you were somewhere else instead of just being in that moment? Why do we always wish we were somewhere else doing anything else with anybody else rather than just enjoying where we are? If you knew that was going to be the last thing you ever did, wouldn’t you try to savor all of it? Close your eyes and feel the warmth of the sunshine as it kisses your face. Listen to the sounds of your kids’ voices as they laugh and squeal. (Trust me one day you will forget what they sounded like) Dance with them in the rain and don’t worry about your clothes or your hair and makeup. Commit to memory the looks on their faces when they are truly excited about something. Do you see that sparkle in their eyes? We should all still have that. Not every minute of every day. But find the little things in your every day life that make your heart happy and your eyes sparkle.
6. Take A Lot of Pics. Okay, I’m not talking about 5,000 per family function, but seriously, snap pics. Not just posed ones though. Try some candid shots when no one knows you’re looking. (Be sure to get a few clips of some video, too!) And get them printed. Don’t just save them on SD cards or thumb drives. Actually print them. It’s not too expensive and you’ll be able to look back at all of them one day and smile as you remember all the fun times you had together. CD’s are only designed to last about 10 years and no one knows for sure how long SD cards will last. So if you want to be able to have them in the future, PRINT THEM OUT. Then one day when you’re bored, you can pull out the photo albums and sit on the floor with your kids or spouse and reminisce. Don’t end up with a collection of media that may not even last a decade and then they’re not even viewable. Or in my case, a large ziplock bag of 35 mm film from 13-18 years ago that I still haven’t developed. One day when your friends or loved ones are gone and your memory of what they looked like or sounded like will begin to get hazy, you’ll wish you had them to remind you.
7. Be There. Go to family gatherings, whether it’s Christmas or a birthday party or a recital. I know it’s impossible to make it to everyone of them and most of us have more than one set of family these days with step families and in laws and add to that friends, work commitments, church, etc, but you can carve out time during the year to go to something. If it’s impossible, maybe try to have a reunion once a year. If you live close enough, drop by every now and then. Pick up the phone and call them. Almost everyone has a cell phone now and we keep it with us at all times. There’s no reason that we can’t call or text someone just to say “Hey, I was thinking about you. I love you.” There will come a day when you can’t just stop by or pick up a phone to hear their voice and you will miss that. Time with our loved ones is something we can never get back once its gone. Kids grow up and move away. Grandparents get Alzheimers and forget who we are. People die. Don’t keep putting off talking or going to visit someone b/c you never know when you or that person will be gone…Forever.
8. Love. Love. Love. It’s true that love covers a multitude of sins. When our children smart mouth us or yell they hate us, we continue to love them. When your sister hasn’t spoken to you in months because of some self perceived wrong that you committed, you still love her. The problem is we often misinterpret anger or hurt as hate when in fact, if we didn’t love them, there would be no anger or hurt. It’s the fact that we love them that makes it hurt. Think about it. If a stranger at a grocery store, jumped in front of you and then cussed you out, would you be angry? Yes. Would it hurt your feelings? Probably, depending on what they said to you. Would you dwell on it for months and refuse to ever go back to that store because of it? No, probably not. Why? Because you don’t have a personal investment with that stranger or the store. The very fact that what someone says or does hurts us to our core is evidence that you really do love and care about that person. So if you love someone, tell them. Show them. Pick up a card for 50 cents or $1 and mail it to them. Hug them. Every chance you get because one day your arms will be empty and you’ll want nothing more than to be able to wrap your arms around them one last time and them be able to squeeze you back. Don’t be afraid of the words, “I Love You.” Don’t forget to tell people you’re proud of them. Some people are better with words than others. Just because someone doesn’t say those things all the time, doesn’t mean they don’t. They may just speak a different love language than you. Express your feelings ever how you can; just make them known. Don’t leave people behind questioning if you really cared about them. I was blessed in that I had the time to talk to Daddy and we got to say the things we wanted to say to each other. Not everyone gets that chance. You can be here one second, laughing and singing along to the radio on the way to the beach and BAM, you’re hit by someone who ran a red light and in a split second, you’re gone. Or someone you love is gone. Show them you love them while they’re here. While you’re here. Because in the end, how we lived and how we loved will be all that mattered.