In 2022, thirteen people in my inner circle of friends and family died. One after the other, in all kinds of ways. Sharing my devastation at lunch one day with a friend, she said, “I have something to send you.”
Simple (and loving) as that, what she sent was this quote...and it forever changed the way I view death.
This quote made me realize, in such a vivid way, that the people we have loved dearly and deeply, never die. Their love lives on within us…becoming part of our own pay-it-forward when we find ourselves emulating their thoughtfulness or that super silly laugh that could pick our lip up off the floor in a heartbeat.
When I called my friend to thank her, for rocking my world in the best possible way, she offered to show me exactly how to put this message into action.
This “BE The Things You Loved Most” list created a way for me to focus on, and honor, in the most positive way, the people I have loved. How to take tangible action to carry their legacy forward with my own actions. And, how to make sense of death for those of us who are left here, to figure out what to do with the giant ball of grief that takes up residence in our souls.
My friend opened my heart, mind and eyes to a process that made me realize my loved ones can live on forever, within me.
Would you like to see what I mean?
Let me give you a recent example.
Just a few weeks ago, another life-long friend died. I am so much better for her life being a pivotal part of mine.
When the pain is the most searing at the height of our grief…when we are most tender and the image of our loved ones in our mind’s eye is the sharpest...we can use the pain to paint a vivid picture of “we were there moments”, those indelible times we will always treasure.
I hope learning about this process will inspire you. And comfort you. And give you peace to embrace a new view of the everlasting examples we can replicate and emulate from the lives of the ones we love.
My friend Michelle would love knowing that her “exuberant life” lives on as a way of illustrating how we could love someone who has passed in the present tense, forever. Michelle had so many qualities I would like to replicate and emulate in her honor. Sharing what I learned from her, I KNOW they will certainly enhance the lives of others when I take the action to embody them myself. Michelle taught me well.
MICHELLE WAS SO INTUITIVELY AWARE of things and people, on a level that not only made her tuned-in, kind and compassionate but also infinitely creative. She wasn’t efforting to be that way. She just was that way. In a world that seems ever more relentlessly negative, let me be more tuned in, kind, and compassionate. MICHELLE WAS EASILY DELIGHTED BY THE SILLIEST, SIMPLEST THINGS Like Michelle, let me find delight in the cream swirling through my coffee. Let me hold warm towels to my face & nose, savoring them, fresh from the dryer. She taught me the joys of every load of laundry. “Daily Delights”, that’s what she called them. She called my attention to hundreds. MICHELLE LOVED TO LAUGH Chuckle, Belly Laugh. Gee Haw. Clap Your Hands. Stomp Your Feet, Laughing. She never missed a time to let it rip with that throaty baritone or spontaneous high-pitched girl cackle. Let me be the cause of laughter for others. Let me laugh at myself more easily. Let me see humans as tender beings in need of a great hug and a good laugh, freeing them from snark and clever cynicism, even for just a moment. MICHELLE LOVED BEING A FRIEND. WHAT. A. FRIEND. IN. EVERY. WAY. As a matter of fact, as I learned more about Michelle’s diagnosis in these last few years, I also learned about her obsession with the television show, FRIENDS. Somehow, I am not the least bit surprised by that. Let me find the ways to make new friends and be a better friend to the ones I already cherish.
In closing...With Mother’s Day right around the corner, this might be a time when specific thoughts about the qualities we loved most about our mothers could be put into action.
My mother and her mother before her had a drawer full of cookie cutters. They were mostly in the shapes of stars and hearts, in different sizes. Simple pieces of toast, turned into hearts, could become an event our entire family shared. On days when I was nervous about a test at school, my mother turned my sack lunch sandwich into a star with a little note that said, "Remember who you are." Turning our love into simple tangible tributes can create joy for generations to come. It doesn't need to be complicated when it comes from the heart. BE the thing you loved most about the people who are gone.
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