I've been wanting to write a post for a couple of days now and I'll admit, I'm finding that last one a tough act to follow. I mean, it had Stephen Parrish in it, how do you top that?
But since I can't just sit here forever (oh well I guess I could but I don't want to) I guess today's post will just be a few short notes, tied together with string. I hope that you'll find something meaningful in them.
First, the thoughtful part: I really cannot stress enough how important it is to love and value the people you care about while you can.
This was something first impressed upon me in 2001, the summer when my father and my husband's mother were both in critical condition in ICU in different states at the same time both with survival chances that were slim to none.
Miraculously they both pulled through, but we never again took it for granted that someone will be there tomorrow. You see they both literally fell over and nearly died- without warning. Aneurysms of two different kinds, just days apart.
I think I've said here before that living through that experience forever changes what you constitute as a 'crisis'.
Sadly that lesson was reinforced in 2011 when my family lost a dear young friend- thirty-two years old, happily married, three year old daughter, and a successful and fulfilling career. She had it all, and in an instant it was taken away when she was hit by a pickup truck while riding her bicycle. Suddenly she was just...gone.
We found out this week that one of our neighbors passed away recently. Sadly we live in one of those guarded, tense neighborhoods where you don't get to know your neighbors well, and if you try they wonder what crime it is that you're looking to commit against them. So we keep to ourselves- everyone keeps to themselves.
This particular neighbor shared a wall with our apartment, however, and often passed my spouse as he came in and out from work. He would smoke outside (keeping the smoke away from his children) and they, or we, would exchange polite comments about the weather, all that. When their youngest was born I congratulated him on the "It's a boy" sign in the window and he beamed.
I watched him play with his kids in the yard behind the building and could hear them running around the living room and laughing at night. We knew every time Michigan scored a touchdown in a game because he'd whoop and cheer and I had to smile because even if I'm not a football fan, I am a HUGE fan of my U of M surgeons (Go Blue, indeed.) He’d spoken briefly of having some health problems (we never got far before he had to go to work) but nothing serious, we thought.
One night not long ago we were alarmed to see them take this man out of the house, to an ambulance.
We would never see him again.
His wife and children were away for awhile and then, his car, which had been parked continually in the port, was gone too. Finally only just the other day did my spouse get up the courage (or risk intruding to ask) if the gentleman was all right.
His wife said, simply, that he had passed away, about a week after he'd been taken in the ambulance.
My husband was quite shaken by this. The man could not have been much older than he is- and left behind two very young children. I know it brought back thoughts to him of the friend we lost- his very best friend's wife as it happens- and he keeps bringing it up, thinking about it.
Mostly I just think how sad I am that I never even got to know my neighbor’s name. I knew the kind of things about him that a close-by neighbor can know due to closer quarters (and he was a good neighbor) yet, we never got beyond those polite exchanges to even know each other's names. And I hate that about this neighborhood. It makes me ever more anxious all the time to leave.
I know I am lucky, though. I have a roof over my head and food to eat and these days that is an embarrassment of riches. There may be safer neighborhoods but there are also worse.
My point is something we all know but often forget- people aren't permanent. You have to take every opportunity you can to say kind things to them and make them laugh when you can.
I decided to blog about this when, this morning, while catching up on posts I read the sad news of another distant-acquaintance who lost his wife very suddenly, during a meal. It just breaks my heart.
It all adds up to one thing for me: that urgent need to treat time like the precious commodity it is.
So I am renewing my promise to myself not to ever let anything loving go unsaid. I got so buried for a little while beneath the muck that is trial and error of modern medicine that I just could not speak. But things are improving (and I pray that they hold- that this is the combination that I can keep taking this time) and I am reaching out to those I've so missed.
Part of that includes making an earnest effort to participate in the Month of Letters challenge- in which you are charged with writing 24 letters in the month of February and mailing them- snail mail. One a day every day your post office operates where you are. I can't mail every day (I talked to the creator about this and she has put in a special rule about this kind of thing, thanks! :) It doesn't have to be letters to 24 different people. It's just about communication and breathing life into an art form that I love and do not want to see die- the mailed letter.
And finally in my more modern-day attempt to reconnect, I will humbly admit that yes, I, February Grace, have returned to Facebook. Now before you go all "HA! Hypocrite!" on me, I want to explain why this is.
I'm going back because there are people who use it as their sole means of online communication that I need to be in touch with.
I stand by what I said when I left before about there being people there who would use you and hurt you if they can.
But there ARE good people too. People I care a great deal for. And to say "I refuse to use Facebook because I had a bad experience there before" would be akin to saying "I had an argument with my mother on the telephone once and she hung up on me and so I'm never going to use that danged contraption again!"
That would just be ridiculous.
So I'm using it- not letting it use me- or anyone use me. I'm there for real friendships, and everything else will just be so much background noise. So if you see me here and there around those parts, that’s why.
So...are you participating in Letter Month?
Whether or not you are, if there’s someone in your life you've neglected and haven't talked to in awhile but miss…
Call them. Write them. Email. Text. Something.
Whatever happens you'll be glad you left nothing kind unsaid.
PS if you're interested in receiving a card from me in the mail during letter month (just a short note- I have to ration that eyesight...) email me your mailing address and I'll see what I can do.