Earlier today I attended a visitation for a friend of the family who died after having been diagnosed with cancer only a few weeks ago. Life is short and sometimes it ends abruptly.
I will miss Barb. She was a good person. She helped get my family organized and focused 20 years ago (come October) when my mom died. I was 14 then. Sometimes that feels like a lifetime ago and sometimes it feels like yesterday. When it feels like yesterday, the very first thing I remember is standing by the pool at my dad’s club after the funeral and Barb saying kind, encouraging things to me. In what was the worst thing I’d ever experienced by that time in my life, the first memory I recall is one of kindness. I emailed her husband before she died and told him that. I hope he shared it–I regret that I never told her to her face what that meant.
At the visitation, my uncle mentioned Mom dying to me–he doesn’t usually do that. He noted as well that it was 20 years ago, and I heard a catch in his voice that I’ve never heard before. I guess sometimes it feels like yesterday for him too. Life is short and sometimes it ends abruptly. And when it’s TOO short, you carry that with you forever.
It strikes me that when you go to a memorial, you spend time talking about everything except the body in the room. That has always bothered me. I wanted to tell everyone that Barb made it okay that it’s been 20 years since my mom died. And that 20 years from now, it would be okay that Barb has died too because someone WILL say something kind to you that you’ll hold onto forever. Instead I explained to everyone I spoke to that “no, I don’t SELL insurance, I’m a claims support rep. I follow up on claims and schedule appraisals and blahblahblah…” and listened to much of the same. That ALWAYS bothers me.
And it bothers me that I can’t talk about Ferguson all day long. That I can’t note with every breath that there is a BIG and important distinction between the looters and the protesters. That there are people in the middle of the tear gas performing great works of kindness and generosity that people with deep emotional scars will remember 20 years from now that will make at least SOME of the lingering pain feel okay. That humanity is ALWAYS capable of unbelievable good in the face of unconscionable evil. That love is stronger than hate…
Instead I talk about how sad it is that Robin Williams killed himself. And it is. And that’s important. And you should really read this article because it’s got desperately important information in it that might help you save someone’s life. And that IS important. Because life is short and sometimes it ends abruptly. And YOU might be the one that keeps someone’s head out of the noose if you just show kindness when they’re at their worst.
This week has been devastating. Defeating. Awful. It has also had small, glorious moments that I will recall 20 years from now when I’m telling someone where I was when Ferguson burned. I was home, sad for a community I care deeply for…and it was so nice how my friend Brian got in touch just to say he knew I was close to there and was I doing okay?
There is always kindness. YOU always have the capacity for kindness. Please do whatever you can to show it to people. Because Life is short and sometimes it ends abruptly.