Valuing every day

Ancient headstones, Glendalough, Ireland

I often feel that it’s sad how quickly we want Fridays to arrive (and the fact that there’s an entire restaurant chain called TGI Fridays speaks for itself), but some weeks are legitimately dismal and call for a drink by their end.

This has been one such week for me, still feeling poorly from a virus, and attending the funeral of a friend’s life partner, who died suddenly sitting in his living room chair (from a heart attack). I am heartbroken for my friend, who lost her beloved of more than 35 years with no warning or time to prepare, and for his family as well — at the service, everyone just seemed shell-shocked.

There’s not even very much we can do to help our friends under these circumstances, apart from being company through the grieving afterward, and these events have a ripple effect, prompting us to feel insecure about the safety of our own partners in the wake of the devastation we can see in our friends’ faces.

Grief is gut-wrenching and painful, but I offer you this excellent essay, The Awe of Being Alive, that I happened to come across this week. The writer talks about what value such traumatic events have in our lives, having lived through one himself. For my part, feeling deep grief affirms the love we have had for a person, or even a beloved pet, and that it was a great gift to have had them in our lives.

These events also remind us to cherish every moment we have with a loved one, because life can change in an instant, and to try to make the most of every day.

Go out and do wonderful things now, as many as you can. Don’t wait for a day in some misty future that may never come.

Don’t sweat the small stuff, or spend your time worrying about what other people think. Be true to yourself, be a nice person, in some small measure leave the world a better place than when you entered it. Those are the things that truly matter.

Lessons in a sunset

Savute sunset, Botswana 2007 - photo by E. Jurus
Savute sunset, Botswana 2007 – photo by E. Jurus

I was driving home this evening from a funeral home; a friend’s mother, who’d been ill for quite some time, passed away unexpectedly from a sudden heart attack. As I crested our local skyway, in the distance a beautiful sunset lit up the sky in a rare burst of glory. It seemed a metaphor for life — moments of grief counterbalanced by moments of beauty. We all know the impermanence of life, but it’s hard to accept when we lose someone close to us. If I’ve learned anything from all the friends, family and pets we’ve lost over the years, it’s that time doesn’t really heal wounds, it just makes them bearable so that you can do what you have to do to survive, which is to move on. After I lost my beloved dog Ramses 8 years ago, it ripped my heart out; it took me months before I could even say the words “he’s dead”. Gradually I was able to go a day or two without crying, then maybe a week, then longer and longer, but even as I write this I feel the pain of his loss and miss him enormously. I wouldn’t change having had him in my life — his love and courage taught me a lot. And so life goes on, and after our adorable second dog Isis passed away the following year, also from old age and sickness, my husband and I went on a trip to Africa that we’d been putting off for a while, and we discovered magic and some healing in the beauty of nature.

This evening I couldn’t stop anywhere to take a photo of our local sunset, so instead I offer you one of the magnificent sunsets we enjoyed on that first safari. As I drove down the far side of the skyway, watching Nature’s artwork in the sky and musing on the meaning of life, I watched an idiot driver cross two lanes of traffic to take the exit ramp, just barely missing the concrete abutment. Sigh. The lesson of the sunset was clearly lost on whoever the driver was, as was the concept of driving safely. Here are two thoughts to take home with you:

1. We only get to watch so many sunsets in our life — don’t squander them!

2. Nature is the mother of all that’s great on our planet — we can only use the tools she gives us to make beauty, or ugliness. Which would you like your legacy to be?