Lessons Learned From a Loss

Mental Fitness

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As you know, I recently lost my mother. It wasn’t at all expected, and at 64 she was much, much too young to leave us. She’s in a far better place now – with my dad and her mom – so I can take comfort in that.

I’ve always tried to reach down deep into each experience and pull out a lesson or two. I’ve always told my girls that a day spent without lauging and learning is a day wasted. Granted, lately the laughs have been at a minimum, but the learning has been amped!

Below are just a few of the lessons that I’ve had time to get my mind around.

  • We aren’t guaranteed anything other than today – and we aren’t even guaranteed the totality of it. We hear that said all the time, don’t we? Yet it’s so utterly true that it makes my head throb. If we remind ourselves of this often enough, the little petty annoyances in life won’t amount to much. Life is completely precious and completely fragile. Ours as well as those around us. We just never know when the words we speak will be our last. When we talk with a loved one, we never know when it might be the last time.

    With my dad, the loss was expected (no easier, but expected). We’d seen it coming for months, and were able to make sure we told him often how much we loved him. Flowers were able to be sent, long visits were afforded, etc. With my mom, that Saturday afternoon we were on the phone talking about how she wanted to move into a bigger house this spring, about my daughters (her beloved granddaughters), laughing about her adorable little dog’s antics, and trying to figure out this year’s UK Basketball team – Then, that evening she died in her sleep. I keep thinking how I wish I’d said this in the conversation, how I wish I’d said that….but she’d have thought I’d lost my mind if I’d stopped her mid-sentence in breaking down the Wildcat’s offense and said “Love you, mom!” Of course, I’ll wish for the rest of my life that I had.

    The point is, we should strive to make all of our conversations good ones. There’s an old saying that we should always part with loving words because they may be your last. Thank God the only anger we had in our final conversations was directed to an underachieving basketball team!

  • This week I plan to go through all of my picture albums and make certain everything’s written on. Just because I know that a certain picture is Emily in Kentucky and not Stephany in Indiana or Brittany in Iowa doesn’t mean that future generations will. I’m also going to make little personal notations on them as well. We’re a picture-taking, picture-loving group, so this will literally take weeks, but it’ll be worth it. Going through pictures this week, I’ve been so thankful to the individuals who wrote on the backs of pictures. My great-great grandmother would even write the exact date, along with the ages of the subjects. I wish she’d written where the were in each one, but she wrote more than most people did. I think my mom just expected to have plenty of time to go back and do so.
  • One of the biggest impacts from the past few weeks was from one of mom’s best friends. She and Ann were as close as sisters, and often fought like sisters! But they loved one another greatly, and it showed. One of the best known things about Ann – in addition to her wonderful personality and the fact that she’s always been very, very pretty – was the fact that she was scared to death of speaking in public. Petrified. My mom would always kid her about it, and at work if they ever had a presentation to make, mom would do it. (I’m with Ann on this one – nothing is as frightening as public speaking!)

    Anyway, when we were making the arrangements for the funeral – wanting to make sure that she had the greatest one possible, we were lining up a few people to say something about mom before the preacher spoke. We wanted desperately for Ann to say a few words – if she were able. After all, confronting a fear is horrible enough, but to do so with so many emotions attached is almost impossible. Crying, she said she didn’t know if she could or not.

    But when the day of the funeral came, Ann got up in front of everyone and gave the most beautiful speech you could imagine. She touched everyone with mom’s generosity (I don’t think there’s a charity or organization that she wasn’t on the frontlines for! ), she made us cry when talking about how close they were, and she made us laugh when telling about the pranks mom would pull on her. (She once threw a firecracker into Ann’s bathroom stall.)

    The funeral was beautiful and very moving – just what my mom deserved, and Ann’s words were what everyone was talking about afterwards. She was a very large part of what made everything so beautiful – the woman who was scared spitless of public speaking. Somehow she kept her composure and not only gave a beautiful tribute to a lost friend, she showed us all what courage really looks like.

Make today count – each word, each breath, each action, each gesture, each thought. Approach each day for the rest of your life the same way. Live life to the fullest and help those around you to do the same!

Make each moment count triple,
~Joi

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