A dear friend lost his mother last month. She was 95 and, from all accounts, a talented woman with a fascinating life even before starting her family. Here is what my friend shared about his mother’s last week.
“Thursday morning, I visited my mother at the nursing home. She was fragile and semi-aware as I fed her a few teaspoons of scrambled egg and helped her drink a tiny sip of apple juice. She tired quickly and asked to return to her bed. Before she dozed, I kissed her on the forehead and whispered ‘I love you, Mom.’ ‘You’re a good kid,’ she replied. ‘You’re a good mom. See you next time.’
An hour later I visited an inspirational high school teacher, in a nearby nursing home. We visited spiritedly for 30 minutes before he had to leave for physical therapy. I promised to return to complete the visit the next Thursday.
On Saturday, Mom died peacefully. On Wednesday my teacher died unexpectedly.
Among the reflections I allowed myself until more tears interrupted were the two powerful lessons I’ve embraced from them: Mom taught that there is right way. This teacher taught that the wrong way has consequences.”
Though not the same as losing a parent, I unexpectedly lost three friends in the last year, all in my same decade of life. As with my friend, each loss was a cause for reflection. Each left me with some unique gift and helped me a little on my journey toward becoming a better person for having known them. I believe we honor those who go before us when we use their passing to reflect on the lessons of their lives.
Depending on your perspective, death represents either an unfortunate outcome of the natural order, or an upside down gift from God. A gift because without an unknown expiration date, what incentive would we have to create, to improve, to reflect? Would we simply be the smartest of the animals, spending our days chasing only instant gratification, with no need to look for something more? Knowing I, and those I love, will not always be here is a powerful motivator for me to become better. Those around me help me fulfill my potential simply by showing me theirs. It is a rich blessing, though the inevitable losses are painful. I have only been able to find comfort in the pain of those losses when I try to learn lessons from the best of who they were and hope that, someday, I, too, may be a small lesson to someone else.
“I truly believe that everything that we do and everyone that we meet is put in our path for a purpose. There are no accidents; we’re all teachers – if we’re willing to pay attention to the lessons we learn, trust our positive instincts, and not be afraid to take risks or wait for some miracle to come knocking at our door.” –Marla Gibbs