Life. We take it for granted. I mean, I know we do when we’re young- there is nothing more invincible that a young person who hasn’t been touched by tragedy. When we’re young, we just don’t comprehend preciousness, we don’t understand the gifts we are given. Life is fleeting, fragile, uncertain- we don’t want it to be— we build fences all across the landscapes of experience to give us semblances of safety. But, we cannot dwell there. We cannot think about what might be; if we do so, we can be crippled, stunted, and ironically, miss out on our own lived experiences.
This weekend, I lost a dear friend. We all know tragedy happens. There are accidents, there are illnesses. But coming face to face with the brevity of life, with how quickly and utterly it can vanish— causes one to pause and reflect a bit.
Do you remember Little House? Little House was owned by a wonderful woman who became a dear friend, long before I ever lived there. She filled her kitchen with delicious baked goods, she threw tea-parties with a dress-code of wildly ornate hats, she made aprons for each holiday, and she might throw a dinner simply because it was Tuesday, and Tuesday should be fun. She made the most beautiful quilts, and that was how I came to know her— sewing tiny scraps of fabric into beautiful heirlooms.
She had married later in life, and while she hadn’t given birth to children herself, she had dozens of children in whose eyes she was beloved. Her wedding was a Regency celebration where Jane Austen would have been comfortable. I had the honor of making two of the flower-girl dresses for the wedding. When you were around her, you couldn’t help but be happy. Her jovial, hope-filled, and sometimes wickedly witty personality made most people instantly at ease. She was loved.
She had been fighting some health problems; pulled muscles and what she thought might be a kidney stone. Last week, she posted on Facebook that she’d been diagnosed with cancer. Last week. Her words were upbeat- she was ready to fight this and win. Her husband, who had just started a new job in a new city, was flying back to be with her.
Two days later, a family member posted that she was in a coma, and wasn’t expected to last the weekend. The next morning, she died.
All I keep thinking about is how much she didn’t get to say, didn’t get to do… quilts that are unfinished, words she would have wanted to give her loved ones, a legacy she would have wanted to leave behind. Mercifully, she didn’t suffer- that’s been the thread of hope most of us who love her have been able to grasp. She didn’t suffer. But oh God, I hope you really needed her home, because those of us here are going to miss her light more than we can express.
It really puts a fine point on the direction of our own lives when we lose someone we love so suddenly. For all of our plans, all of our ideas that we might get to someday… it’s trite and poets and artists have been trying to convey it forever: Someday might not come.
Go grab your loved ones and speak to their hearts. Say you’re sorry if you need to. Don’t waste a single precious moment of this golden, beautiful life on grudges, spite, or anything unholy. Embrace life with both arms and banish your fear. Create what you always wanted, and if you didn’t succeed the first time you tried, rewrite your story and make a new chapter. If there is something your soul yearns for, make the leap. Cease worrying. Take a deep breath, inhale and savor life in great, glorious gulps. It really is all we have. We’re all stories in the end… make it a good one.
I miss you, Betty. May the four winds blow you safely home.