Why is it that we wait until someone’s passing to celebrate their life?
This week was the 10th anniversary of the passing of my big brother. Last month was the third anniversary of the passing of my father. I have lost two friends to cancer in the last month – not close friends, but people who were part of my life at one time, and who made an impression on me. They left the world too early, but they made an impact on those around them.
At such times, we call up memories, and reflect on the impressions people have had on us and those around us. We mourn losing them, when in fact they live on in all of us.
We need to take the time while we are living to tell others how we feel. It’s not easy. For me, writing is a kind of therapy, and an easier way to share feelings than directly.
Why didn’t I tell my big brother what he meant to me: how I looked up to him; how I remember him “flying” me on his shoulders when I was really little; how excited I was when I finally beat him at shinny in the back yard (I’m sure he let me win); how he drove me crazy when he wanted to sleep in Christmas morning; how I cried when he left for the Navy; how excited I was when he brought Lori and Josh for Christmas (my first nephew, how awesome!); how I loved to be around his calmness when we were adults, just enjoying quiet time together. It’s his fault I’m a tomboy, I am sure. I think I told him those things, but I don’t know.
Why didn’t I share with my dad that he gave me a love of dancing, first letting me stand on his shoes to dance and then whirling me around and teaching me the steps. Why didn’t I tell him that he taught me environmentalism while at the cabin, to respect the animal and plant life, to lie on our backs at night and learn the constellations. He challenged me in many ways, which drove me crazy when I was a teenager, but that taught me not to take at face value everything I hear. He shared a love of the English language, and to this day a typo drives me crazy. When he could, he came to watch my sports even when he didn’t understand them. I think I told him those things, but I don’t know.
I need to tell my mother the tremendous impact she has had on me. We seem like such different personalities, and yet I have so much of her in me. I love books and libraries, because she walked me to the “bookmobile” (the traveling library trailer) every week. She taught me independence without realizing it. She didn’t drive until I was a teenager, so we walked everywhere, and she taught me the bus system, so I could eventually take the bus myself to swimming lessons. Until I learned, she took me everywhere. I still love to walk, and I made her ride the bus in Mexico! She taught me a love of cooking, which I am just now developing. She shared a love of growing and gardening, which I am returning to as well. She came to watch all my sports, and supported everything I tried. She taught me unconditional love, because she has so much of it. I think I have told her those things, but I don’t know.
I need to tell my big sister that she has given me the gift of her compassion and generosity, something she has shared her entire life. She puts everyone before herself, and that is a gift to all of us, starting with me. She is amazingly successful at everything she touches, first a long career in education and now her own business. She taught me how to love and raise children, and helped me raise mine. She supported me through many hard times, and we can be apart for long periods of time, then be together like we have never been apart. She endured being stuck with a little sister that she had to share bedrooms with, babysit and look after, yet she always had and still has an unending love for me. She was my first best friend and remains that. I think I have told her those things, but I don’t know.
My husband needs to know that I love it when we he asks me to dance, even in the kitchen. I love when we laugh together, when we spend time together, whether that is in the boat, on the golf course, or going for a walk. I love our long conversations and our quiet time together. He needs to know that his never-ending support for me means so much. I admire all he did before we met, and all he has done since, in his personal and professional life. He has accomplished more than I could ever imagine. And then he was willing to start over with me, and raise a young boy into a man, and support my career and my ambitions as well. He needs to know that I really feel at home with him, as my soulmate and partner. I think I have told him those things, but I don’t know.
My son needs to know that he is the light of my life. I admire his determination – even at age three, holding a fishing rod in his mouth because he had a bee sting on one hand. He never quit, working hard at school, sports, and now his trade. He is independent and strong, smart and funny, and also kind and gentle. I think the world of him and we are so proud of him. I think I have told him those things, but I don’t know.
There are others that I admire and love. My sister-in-law, widowed too young and yet so strong as she forges ahead with a different life than she imagined. My four nephews, who brought me so much joy and continue to do so, two of them now raising their own beautiful families. My stepchildren, who accepted me and my son as part of their families, and truly are part of my family. My grandchildren, the newest lights of my life, growing so fast and giving me many smiles along the way. My in-laws. My closest friends – like my kindergarten buddy who has remained so dear despite the fact we have not lived in the same city since we were 12. People who have come into my life and perhaps moved out of my life, but have left me touched by a gift from them. These people have all formed me to be who I am today.
There is so much more to share with everyone, more than can be captured in one (long) blog post. I have looked at this post for too many days, wondering if I should post it or keep it to myself. Did I say the right things? The wrong things? Did I say enough or too much? Will I offend anyone by inclusion or omission? I hope not.
Writing this makes me feel raw, sad and overwhelmed. And yet it also makes me feel happy and extremely blessed that I have people around me who have made me the person I am today. I will continue to grow and change, and those people will be part of that. I am celebrating all of them in my own way, while I can. Thanks for listening.