This isn't the post I was originally planning to write today. Not that what I was going to say was life-changing and important, but I had something else in mind.
As I was walking out the door this morning to church, our next door neighbor was coming up the street towards their house. I was surprised to see him, because I knew their teenaged daughter's school was already closed for the holidays, and we expected that they would be spending their holiday in Maine. They are in the process of building a vacation house there, and love to go up and spend time there whenever they have a bit of extra time off. I mentioned this, and he said that was the original plan, but things changed suddenly.
His mother died this past Thursday.
Now we don't know his parents well, but we saw them regularly when they would visit next door. They moved from their family home in Illinois about five years ago to be closer to the couple who lives next door, and I always thought it was especially nice how much they seemed to love their daughter-in-law, and how she was crazy about them. Todd's mother was a lovely woman, always smiling, and with a wonderful sense of humor. In the past few years, she had two hip replacements and bounced right back with few problems. Todd said that she had a massive stroke last Tuesday. Apparently her birthday was last Wednesday, and she told them she wanted to hang on for that. She had always insisted that her birthday be celebrated separately from Christmas, so they had cupcakes and sang Happy Birthday to her, which she really enjoyed. She told them it would be OK to have to leave now, and she died the next day.
That is so poignant to me. I'm very glad she didn't linger and suffer, and I know it's a shock for all of her family, but to some degree it sounded like she did things her way, on her terms. And in the end, she was surrounded by those she loved and who loved her, and frankly, I envy her that. Todd says that she had always wished her adult children and their families would spend Christmas together, enjoying each others' company and telling funny stories, etc. He said that in the saddest way possible, she finally got her wish. They are all going to try and have as good a Christmas as possible in her honor.
Todd also told me that his dad and his mom were "lifelong buds," having met each other in elementary school.
I guess you don't really need to know all of this. But I wanted you to know, because I think it's important to know that someone is no longer here who mattered to so many people. We get so caught up in our own plans, thoughts, and problems, that we forget that when someone - anyone - dies, it's a ripple effect to an extent we might never know.
After talking to Todd, I walked up to church, and as it turns out, a baby girl was being baptized today. There she was, dressed in a fancy christening dress, with her proud parents, older brother, and others, all smiling and beaming because of the occasion. And I thought, wow, universe, way to remind me of the circle of life and all that. That little girl will never know Mrs. Drake, but she will meet others like her; she has a grandmother that means everything to her. Or maybe she'll have next door neighbors with a mom like Mrs. Drake. She will undoubtedly have an intersection in her life with someone like Todd's mother, though she may never realize what that woman means to others.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is no doubt that everyone has lost someone along the way. And no matter what, it's not easy, and it is never fair. Having loved someone and/or knowing they loved you is so hard, but so worthwhile, even when you have to say goodbye.
Tread lightly around others when you can. You don't miss someone only when they die, any more than you are only happy when someone is born. Smile at someone and mean it. Wish someone a Merry Christmas. Make someone laugh. Hold someone's hand.
Be kind. We can't always love everyone, but we can try to be kind and that's better than nothing.