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 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!
Usually, I use my children’s swimming lessons as an opportunity to catch up with emails or read a book. It occurred to me recently that I had never really watched them swim. Sure, I lift up my head intermittently but I don’t think I have really watched them wholeheartedly; from start to finish. So on this occasion, I decided to pay attention and watch their progress, if only to be able to give them pointers after.
Watching my daughter was a revelation. She is a real fighter. Her brother is two years older than her but she is determined to catch up with him in everything. Since they started the lessons, he has quickly moved up three levels but she is still at level one. She desperately wants to move up to the next level but as she is a little apprehensive of the water, she is making slower progress. When the teacher is not looking, I watch her practising strokes and holding onto the sides as she tries some manoeuvre she has learnt or endeavours to go under water by herself. It’s endearing to see that she doesn’t quit easily.
There is a lot you can learn about the personality of children just by simply observing their approach to challenges. If I wasn’t living in the moment, I would have missed learning this quality about my Wonder Girl. ♥