Normally I offer my readers something funny or interesting to ponder. Sometimes I go off on a rant and often I’ll do a little of both. This week, though not that close to Thanksgiving or Valentine’s Day, I’m gonna get a little mushy on you. In the past week, people I know and are fond of have suffered great losses. This sparked some feelings (yes I have some) and I want to write about the importance of other people in your lives. Don’t put the paper down just yet. You may find yourself somewhere among the following dialogue.
You see, when I was younger, many, many, many years ago, I heard a story that made me think about how precious our time on this planet is. With it’s warts, trials and tribulations, life is a gift and regardless of your circumstances, unless you are naked and starving, living in a third-world country or in a hospital bed, you have something to be grateful for.
A very close family member of mine, when she was a very young wife and mother, awaited her own mother and father, sister, an aunt and two cousins’ return from a quick trip to Chicago, right before Christmas. The wait was a long one and eventually, instead of any of the before-mentioned people arriving, an uncle related to the other side of her family arrived instead … with a newspaper … one he wanted to prepare her to see before she saw it on her own. Phones weren’t very popular back then and most homes didn’t bother with one, especially homes in the country.
The headline told about how the carload of loved ones had been in a horrific wreck. Dead were her cousins, aunt and father. Her mother hung to life and her little sister, though strong and likely to live, was physically destroyed beyond recognition. As the closest (figuratively and literally — to the hospital) family member, it became this young woman’s responsibility to make arrangements to notify the other family members, bury those lost, and decide the fate of her mother and sister — staying on life support for lengthy periods and recreating a person’s physical appearance weren’t so easy in those days.
With her faith and new husband, she held up. She did what she had to do. She made the decision to remove her mother from doctor’s care and gently told her malformed sister she would be there for her always. She went back to her home that day with the personal belongings of her loved ones, found in and around the vehicle, including the bloody clothing. That story ended with a tearful suggestion, one that weighed heavy on my young psyche: “Always tell the ones you love that you do — even if they’ll be right back.”
I kiss my husband when he leaves the house to get gas. I tell my children I love them every day … before they leave for school, before they go to bed, and hug them at least once a day (whether they like it or not). If there is a family gathering, it’s kisses and hugs all around upon arriving and before leaving. My husband, coming from a loving but not necessarily affectionate home full of boys, jokes that he won’t even get up to leave any of my family member’s homes when we are “getting ready” to leave because it takes about a half-hour to complete the process of saying our good-byes … and we all live less than an hour away from each other and communicate often. But we appreciate one another. We are grateful for who we have and what we have, regardless of how bad it may or may not be. Even when we want to choke one another, as relatives often do, grudges are put aside for the greetings and leavings because this very may well be the last time we are in each other’s company.
Here are some disturbing facts. There were 751 people that died in car accidents alone in Indiana in 2010 — that number having grown from the year before — 28 of them children younger than 18 (Indiana Criminal Justice Institute Traffic Safety Division). In 2011 there were 3,005 people that lost their lives due to fire and fire-related circumstances (National Fire Protection Association Fire Analysis and Research Division).
And the estimated number of deaths for 2012 (says the American Cancer Society) due to any type of cancer are 35,060. Add to that the 292 people that were murdered in Indiana in 2010 (Indiana Law Enforcement Agency). It takes a split second for everything to change.
The sister from my sad story lived, and though she wasn’t as lovely as my grandmother to begin with, her scars and strange way of talking didn’t scare me through her sparkling eyes and easy laughter. It was very tough for her at first but with her big sister’s help she grew to be a fine young woman and she lived a long and productive life.
The world remained spinning. The sun arose and sat.
The women’s perseverance taught me another lesson early in life. “Life will go on.” There is pain and there is discomfort and there are times when you have no hope. But there is hope. And things will get better. And there is much to enjoy and be grateful for, even when you feel your heart has been ripped from your chest. But, time is precious. None of us are immortal. So don’t wait to say what you need to say to someone. Say it today. If you love someone, don’t set them free. Tell them and show them.