Have you ever lost someone important in your life?
Someone you loved dearly.
Who one day was there, and then just…gone?
It’s a hard thing to bear.
Every little thing reminds you of them – from a song to a television programme, to a certain kind of shirt. From an accent to a model of car, to the scent of their aftershave on someone else.
We all have losses in our lives of different types, but death can be the toughest loss to bear, because of its very finality. Whatever your beliefs about what happens after death, there’s no doubt you won’t see the person again in the here and now.
This week, my granddad passed away after a short but difficult illness.
On the one hand, his death was a blessing. He didn’t want to live in a diminished way – his body was no longer serving him.
Eventually his body gave up, and his spirit faded away.
Eight years ago next month, my Dad died. His was a sudden death – it came out of nowhere, in his mid-fifties, and was a devastating loss for my family.
Two different kinds of deaths: one expected; one a shock.
Neither were easy.
Seeing my Grandad wither away physically gave me a permanent lump in my throat. I felt gratitude I had time to sit with him, as I’ve come back from Chiang Mai to the UK to be with my family, but each day was harder as the realisation of what was going to happen became more clear.
Hearing the news about my Father on a quiet sunday evening on a call which interrupted nothing more than ironing and herbal tea, shattered my world. Knowing my Dad didn’t suffer was a blessing, but I can’t say I wouldn’t have traded a little suffering for more time with him.
No. Neither was easy.
How would you relate to someone if this was the last time you would see them?
If there is one thing that these deaths have taught me, it’s to see the bigger picture in my relationships.
I wouldn’t say I live every day as if those I love might die, but I am conscious each time I spend time with someone I love that that time is a gift.
That the world isn’t fair, or ordered, and that there’s plenty I can’t control, like who gets ill, or who lives and dies.
But there are some things I can control.
I can control how I react when I’m angry.
I can control how I show my love and gratitude to the people around me.
I can control whether I show kindness or cruelty when I’m frustrated.
I can control how I deal with difficult emotions.
I can control the words I use to express myself.
I can control whether I blow things out of proportion or deal with them and move on.
I can control whether I act like a petulant child or an open-hearted adult.
Don’t Set Yourself Up For Regrets
If I have one wish for you, it’s that you never experience the regret of wishing you had treated someone differently when it’s too late.
Do this difficult thought-exercise:
Think about someone with whom you’re currently annoyed, frustrated or angry.
How would you feel about these emotions, and the way you’ve handled them, if they died before you next saw them?
What perspective on the issue does this give you? How much does the issue matter to you with this new perspective?
If it’s still an issue, how can you deal with it in a mature way and move on? What can you do to resolve it and have a healthy relationship?
What can you do, today, to make sure you have no regrets?
Go do it.
Because you never know when it will be too late.