In light of recent obituaries in the press, this old post came to mind.
I have been to too many funerals in the last few years than I would care to experience. They have been for family members; older friends and much younger friends; some children; colleagues and close friends; wives of church leaders and congregation members; parents of my friends, my own estranged dad – so so many than I would care to count.
I cry at weddings so it will be no surprise to discover that I weep at funerals whether I was close to the person or not. However, no matter the relationship I am always struck by two main things.
Whenever tributes are read I am sometimes struck by how little I knew about the person who I was weeping over. How is it that I never knew x,y and z about this person – especially if we were in close proximity? Like how didn’t I know they were so caring or so giving or so wise or so funny or so weird or so interesting? How is it that I spent so much time ‘around’ them but never know that?
Regrets. If I had known that would be the last time I saw that person, I would have called. I would have visited more. I would have gone to that party they invited me to but was too tired to make. I would have invited them to my home for dinner. I would have told her I loved her. I would have thanked them for being a great friend or supporting me through that tough period. I would have spoken more from the heart and not had superficial conversations. I would have found out how they were really doing. Were they happy? I would have made our last moment together count. I wouldn’t have spent so much time being upset about that time they spoke to me in a funny way or how I felt they had treated me. I would have kept in touch. I would have taken more of an interest in them. I would have ……..
Indeed death is very instructive. A funeral or a graveside is a great place to start if you want a reality check on how you are living your life. There were a few successive years when it seemed like the only social functions I was attending were funerals. I learnt a great deal about myself and the sort of person I wanted to be over those years.
Relationships are crucial to humanity. Even for introverts like mysel, I willingly admit that I need relationships to keep me alive. The tragedy of life is that we take people around us for granted. For some deluded reason we seem to think we will always be around; we will always have each other. We take life for granted, that its electrodes will always course through our veins. We all live in the eternal hope that we will be sustained with long life. And so we treat each other like we will always meet tomorrow. However the reality is you never know when good bye means see you on another shore. And so:
We talk to each other without listening because tomorrow we will talk again.
We go to bed angry, because tomorrow we will make up.
We are unkind to each other, because tomorrow we can make amends.
We withdraw our love from each other, because tomorrow they may hurt us again.
We do not sacrifice our time to spend it with someone because we can always go there tomorrow.
We do not pick up the phone to call because we will have more time to speak tomorrow.
We do not visit that person in hospital because tomorrow they’ll be out and we can go and see them at home.
We do not say sorry, because tomorrow we can be friends again.
We do not say thank you now because tomorrow ……………..
We do not say I love you, because they should know and tomorrow ………
I am not looking to score brownie points or fulfil some sort of sick righteousness, but because if, God forbid, I ever have to attend a funeral of someone I care for again, I do not want to regret not knowing them or experiencing a tangible relationship with them. And so I call or text when people come to mind. I ask if they are happy. I say thank you for being there for me. I laugh with them, cry with them. I listen even when I feel they have not even thought about how I’m doing – I listen. I travel longer distances now to share precious moments with them. I reach out even when they haven’t asked after me in ages. I bake them a cake to say I care. Just because – just because you never know if tomorrow will come, I’m trying to treat my relationships like there is no tomorrow. Trying – it is an ongoing personal challenge.
One trick I have learnt, particularly when I feel I have been wronged by someone; I think, what if you hear tomorrow that this person has died, how would you feel? If I feel remorse or regret and then I know, it’s not worth being upset over. Let it go.
I love TV. I love the stories. I love the acting and when it’s George Clooney, I literally love the actor! :). I digress. I am drawn into the make believe world that writers create and actors bring to life. I am often in awe of the talent of the writers because at the stroke of the pen they instigate an avalanche of emotions. I have cried, laughed, screamed, danced, fumed and even had sleepless nights over something I’ve watched. I credit amazing writers and exceptional actors for that. My husband makes fun of me because of how drawn into it I get and often reminds me that it’s not real life. Whatever! Everyone needs an obsession right? 😉
And so like many others around the world, I look forward to watching award ceremonies. The Golden Globe, The Oscars, The BAFTAs and of course The Emmys. I watch them for the same reason I love going to a concert or the theatre – I am unequivocally inspired. And this year’s Emmys did not disappoint. I must mention that I have not been as into TV so much as I would have been say five years ago. There is just so much choice and very little time to watch them all. So I must admit that I have never seen an episode of Scandal, House of Cards, Game of Thrones or True Detective and a few others. *covers eyes*. Looks like I have a lot of box sets to get through over the Christmas holidays. However, despite my lack of knowledge of most of the programmes, it was nonetheless inspiring.
In retrospect, given my lack of viewing experience, perhaps I shouldn’t have introduced this post by saying I love TV. Maybe I’m inspired by TV would have been better. ROTFL. I digress again.
Anyway, as I was saying, I find award ceremonies inspiring for a number of reasons. It’s the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice. It’s an honour for your peers to recognise your gift – the moment when others see in you what you’ve secretly thought about yourself. It’s the joy. The dresses – oh my goodness the dresses. The dodgy speeches. But every now and then, someone says or does something that sets me aflame and makes me determined to be THAT guy or lady on the screen.
This year, it was Bryan Cranston, winner of outstanding lead actor in a drama series. In his acceptance speech he said the following about discovering his passion:
I did happen to stumble upon finding a passion that created a seed and bloomed into something so wonderful for me. I love to act, it is a passion of mine and I will do it until my last breath. ……………………..Take a chance, take a risk. Find that passion, rekindle it, fall in love all over again. It’s really worth it.
I think I’ve said it numerous times and in numerous ways, I hate football. I absolutely abhor it. It does nothing for me and thankfully my husband has been kind enough not to let it overtake our lives so I’m only subjected to Match of the Day. I thought I had escaped a life consumed by football. I really thought I had. :(. How could I have known that my sports addict of a husband and I would spawn an ultra football mad child. 😦 😦 :(. I could not have known. Truly I must have been bad in another life. I blame the World Cup and his school friends. They are solely responsible for the football fanatic that now resides under my roof. He has two hundred and three Panini football cards. I know because he counts them regularly and lays them out with the same ardour that one would use to polish a brand new Ferrari. He can tell you absolutely every player on every team represented at the World Cup. He knows how many duplications of each card that he possesses. He knows all the managers. He knows the colours of all the flags. I am constantly amazed at how he can connect every conversation to a football fact. I’m like, really??? Now he watches the sports channel all the time. So I didn’t escape the madness it would seem. 😐
Despite my angst and moans, I am fascinated by how a boy who only played football during lunch break, was never awake late enough to watch it with his dad and only knew teams that his friends talked about at school could be so easily consumed by it. It has raised his confidence so much that he’s chatting up random people on the streets and telling them about his cards and players he likes. Also because he is so knowledgeable about the subject, he can boldly have conversations with friends and strangers alike, His geography has improved immensely and he now has a desire to travel to other countries. He drives his sister round the bend with football card games and faux swaps (he always finds a way to get his cards back). I was even forced to become his agent during the World Cup when I inadvertently found myself teaching him how to negotiate with his friends so that when they swapped cards, he got a worthy exchange. :). It was a funny moment really because he had been convinced by a friend to give up a rare card for one he already had. Well, I was wasn’t having that. Negotiation is a life skill that he will eventually have to learn so he might as well learn how now. So when all is said and done, I have to admit that it’s a wonderful sight to behold. Watching his growing passion for football has been a real revelation for me.
The way he lights up when talking about football is inspiring. He gets so excited and has to slow down to catch his breath because he’s forgotten to breathe. When he describes a goal, the joy splayed over his face is infectious, you can’t help but laugh. It is just priceless. Every child should have an obsession. Heck! We should all have an obsession. Truly!
I’ve worked with so many people who come to work day in day out and you know they would rather be somewhere else. I’ve also been one of those people. And I’ve worked with people who can take the most boring subject and turn it into a spellbinding subject. I’ve also been one of those people too. I’d rather work with the latter any day. And the moment I begin to feel like the former, it’s time to run for the exit. Whilst there is no such thing as the perfect job, I need to at the very least like what I do. If most of my living moments are going to be spent in an office then they have to be meaningful moments.
Observing my son’s new found fanaticism has put me in a very reflective mood so I might have a couple more posts on the subject. If you ask me, I want to be obsessed, consumed, subsumed and imbued by a passion that has my DNA all over it. It may not necessarily be my day job, although that would be so cool, it might simply be a hobby or interest. I think it’s a richer and more fulfilling way to live life. Even if it’s for a moment. It will be well worth it.
I love living life through my children’s eyes. As I said this is the first time that they are aware that they are travelling and the excitement was palpable and audible. My daughter was squealing à la Macaulay Culkin and my son was dancing and running on the spot. You couldn’t help but smile.
As adults we lose the ability to be in awe of experiences we’ve had over and over again. For them, travelling was a big deal. And it was lovely to behold; to see that child like zest for life, living the moment, soaking in the present. It was truly a sight to behold and I lived every moment with them, particularly my daughter as we sat together. She payed so much attention to the safety video that at the end of the flight my daughter bent down and said she wanted to see her life jacket.
I happened to be chatting to my manager, before I left, about how my daughter had said she wanted to be a pilot earlier on in the year. And then one day, after talking with some friends at school, came home to say she wanted to be a flight attendant. WonderWoman rebelled. ‘No’ I said, ‘you will be a pilot’. My issue isn’t what she wanted to be but that she had been convinced to change her ambition. So my line manager suggested I get her to meet the pilot as that may get her interested all over again. I wasn’t aware that could still happen post 9/11 but apparently it could. Then I made a joke and said it would be even better if I could orchestrate a female pilot for the day and we laughed.
After we boarded the plane, that Captain’s voice boomed over the intercom to welcome us on board and IT WAS A WOMAN!!! Aaaaaaaaarggggh. I could not miss this opportunity. I asked an male attendant (the irony of the moment wasn’t lost on me)if it was possible to meet the female pilot. I explained that my daughter wanted to be a pilot and as it’s a woman today it would be great if she could meet her. To which my daughter responded, ‘mummy I don’t want to be a pilot’. To which I responded, ‘ssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh’. It was a funny moment which I may blog about separately. The attendant came back with an affirmative Yes! Even my too-cool-to-be-perturbed-by-anything-husband was clearly excited at the prospect.
After we landed in Lagos, the attendant had clearly forgotten but I most certainly did not and asked another one 🙂 who went to confer with her colleagues. He apologised for forgetting and took us all the way to the pilot who was outside the cockpit. And then she took us into the cockpit. Aaaaaargh!! I was clearly more excited than my daughter. Lol.
After a six hour flight, I would imagine you wanted to get off and rest but this lady showed us all the buttons, switches, videos and talked us through some of the detail involved in flying the world’s longest aircraft, which we happened to have been on. Surreal does not begin to describe the moment. Truly life is for living!
There have been many eulogies, many tweets, many quotes and, no doubt, many blog posts over the days that have passed since Mandela’s death.
There’ll be many of us inspired and grateful for the sacrifice he made to humanity but there will be very few of us who end up being a light like he was. Many of us will go back to our ‘normal’ lives and resume our ‘normal’ jobs and ‘normal’ existence. Many of us would prefer to talk about him; very few will be challenged enough to lead like he did.
A line in Jame’s Blunt song Bonfire Heart resonates strongly with me –
everyone wants a flame, they don’t want to get burnt.
I find that line so profound. This is the legacy Mandela left me. He was willing to get burnt. He was willing to muddy his hands. He was willing to die. He proved his ideals and his words by his actions.
His death, for me, means that the cloud of witnesses to living for a cause swelled up. Witnesses to the extent that human beings will go to in order that the truth may prevail. Witnesses watching to see who else will be bold enough to join them. Bold enough to arrest the world with their beliefs. Bold enough to fight against inhumane acts, injustice and atrocities around the world.
We are surrounded by many ‘Mandela’s. Not all of them are celebrated on the world’s stage but they exist. They exist down the road from us in different walks of life. They exist in every day life. No one else has to know we are a ‘Mandela’ but the people we affect, the changes we instigate, will feel the effect. The benefit of our rising up, out of being normal, into being light bearers will be felt that many.
Mandela’s light is burnt out now. Other lights need to be lit in it’s place. I pray and hope that I am one of them.
Excerpts from Bonfire Heart
This world is getting colder.
Strangers passing by
No one offers you a shoulder.
No one looks you in the eye.
But I’ve been looking at you
For a long, long time
Just trying to break through,
Trying to make you mine
Everybody wants a flame,
They don’t want to get burnt
Well, today is our turn
Days like these lead to…
Nights like this lead to
Love like ours.
You light the spark in my bonfire heart.
People like us—we don’t
Need that much, just some-
One that starts,
Starts the spark in our bonfire hearts