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…just a breath away…

December 1, 2012

It wasn’t even about me…not really. It began with a very long drive to work. My usual 10 to 15 minute drive to work took over an hour due to the weather and accidents and flooding.

Of course, you go through this thought process as you sit there, listening to the traffic report being reported by some bright, cheerful voice about slow downs and accidents that have traffic backed up here or there…and at first its frustration. You just want to get where you’re going. But then you realize she just said “fatality” in that same bright voice…and the next is a “serious injury crash” and you start to think about how easily it could be you bleeding your life out on the pavement.

And then it isn’t even really about you…but all the people that you know, the family and friends that you just don’t ever even consider will one day not be there…that the person they’re trying to cut out of a twisted wreck of metal and glass could be your mother or brother, or the friend who takes crazy trips with you or the one understands when you call crying over some stupid movie…and just like that they could be gone.

So, that was the state I was in as I got to work. 

Somewhere in the next few hours I learned of someone who had that exact thing happen. I didn’t know this man, but he’s a friend of someone dear to me, and he was away when it happened…on vacation, enjoying his life. And his sister died, in a car accident. I found myself in the bathroom, crying for this man, for this profound loss that makes no sense.

And over the course of the rest of the day three people I know “talked” to me (in this case that talking could be through LJ, email or text message) about death…or more accurately, impending endings, with parents. Three people that I know and love are somewhere on the journey that will leave them without one of their parents. One of them is deployed overseas. Her father took a sudden turn for the worse, and she was trying desperately to get home to him, ended up borrowing a laptop from someone in an airport to skype with her father and mother because they didn’t expect him to live through the night and she wasn’t going to be home until sometime around noon today. 

Can you even imagine saying goodbye to someone you loved while squatting in a corner in an airport departure lounge, using some stranger’s laptop?

It makes the every day stuff seem so…mundane…so unimportant. I know a couple of people right now with parents in the terminal stages of cancer. They’re spread out around the world, dealing with it the best they know how. For two of those people, the end is expected before the new year. For several others, the next six months. How do you live your life knowing death is a breath away?

But that just drives home the point, doesn’t it? That death is only ever a breath away. We have no promise of ever seeing the people we love again. We have no promise of coming home at the end of the day or waking up in the morning.

In a few other cases, I have friends watching their parents/grandparents slip away in a different way. Dementia and Alzheimer’s…diseases that take our loved ones away from us mentally long before they’re gone physically. It’s terrifying to watch a once brilliant, vibrant mind slip away…and it’s scary as fuck for them too. And there’s nothing you can do but hold their hand and try to make them feel loved, even when they no longer know who you are.

It made me think about the stupid inanity of conflict and grudges and politics and how easy it is to let life just happen without realizing that it’s been weeks since we told someone we loved them, since we said it…or showed it in a way that transcends words. 

What are we doing with our lives?

I spent part of yesterday reaching out to people that I hadn’t said the words to in a while. Reactions wavered from simple “Love you too” to jokes about “who is this” and about my phone sending out random texts. There was nothing random about it. 

Life is too short and too fragile and too important to live it without making the people around you know that they are loved. Don’t wait for special occasions. Be spontaneous. Say the words. Do the deed. Whatever it takes to be sure every single day that they know they are loved by you. Advice I intend to take myself.

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