What My Friend’s Sudden Death Taught Me About How to Live Life Today
The sudden death of my dear friend taught me the fleetingness of life. I witnessed her car flipping over on the highway like a matchbox. She was 31. I can rage at the injustice and the cruelty of her death. But that won’t bring her back.
We lose people we’re close to. Life has no guarantees. No order or set amount of time our loved ones will be with us. No promise the health we enjoy today will be with us in the morning.
Death is scary, isn’t it?
But also empowering. Our life can vanish any minute. That’s what motivates us to make the most out of our days.
My friend’s death has left a gaping hole in my heart. We had been wonderful friends since we were sixteen. As we grew up, we shared lots of firsts together. First holiday away without our parents. First serious boyfriend. First home, and first heartbreak.
She had a zest for life. Always ready with a story or a funny anecdote. Sometimes I laugh aloud at the thought of a funny moment we shared. She had a genuineness most people warmed to.
Sometimes I think of how unfair life is that was cut short so early. Most often, though, thinking about her gives me clarity. She taught me most of what I know about living life today.
Here are 3 life lessons to live by starting today:
1. Now is the only guarantee we have.
Most of us have become the walking dead.
You don’t believe me?
Walk into a restaurant and observe people for an hour. Couples taking a few bites of food, glancing up, and blinking in surprise because they forgot their spouse was right there before them, in the flesh. Or, a busy lawyer, holding a stack of papers in one hand, a cellphone in the other, hurriedly shoveling food in his mouth to get back to a job he hates.
We are missing out on all things right in front of us.
The present moment is when:
- You can experience the intricate details of life.
- You can observe your lover tearing out the sheets, rolling them into a ball and pushing them with his big feet down to the bottom of the bed.
- You can fully experience the joys of watching your child take his first step.
- You can gaze at an insane bright double rainbow.
Your life is happening in the now, my friends. Wring the joy and pleasure of every moment you have.
2. Life is fragile; make time for what matters.
Only one thing matters our loved ones. Yet we so often lose sight of this.
We get busy. We need to work to pay the bills. To buy the house. To get the promotion. And we just forget. It’s not until we lose our loved ones that regret breaks our hearts.
While I would love to grow old with my best friend, to sit outside in our rocking chairs as 80-year-old women, reflecting on our lives, I can’t. I don’t have any regrets though because of the quality time we spent together.
I cried with her when her first boyfriend shattered her heart. I celebrated with her when she got her first job. I shared her happiness when her sister got married. We traveled to Dubai she insisted we visit for a few weeks. And I wailed like a child at her funeral when she was laid to rest in peace.
We don’t have time to wait to make time for what matters. Like it or not, the clock is clicking.
It’s time for all of us to slow down, look around, and spend time with people who matter to us. I’m not talking about five minutes snatched here and there while staring at a screen. I’m talking about quality time when you are fully present with those around you and your surroundings.
It’s not always easy to love the people you care about. You won’t always love them. Sometimes they’ll annoy you, or you’ll disagree. And that’s okay.
No one and no relationship is perfect. We’re all doing the best we can.
The important thing is you love your loved ones today. Make time for them, even if your relationship has ups and downs, and let them know you care while you have the chance.
3. Open your heart to life until you hear it crack.
Four years ago, I had a brush with death when an ectopic pregnancy nearly killed me. That was enough to speed up my romantic relationship. I’ll just give it a few more months or at least a year and move in with him, I kept thinking. I already knew what needed to happen. I was procrastinating.
A second chance at life pushed me to realize what mattered, my relationship, even if I get hurt. So, I started living with him after I was released from the hospital.
You do not live life today when you’re at a safe distance from anything that might pierce your heart.
Be in a relationship or not. Either way, I guarantee you are not safe. You will get hurt, feel lost, confused, betrayed, and heartbroken. Someone you love will disappoint you in a big way or in a thousand nameless secret ways. You might start a relationship with the wrong person. Or, you might be with the right person and the wrong one might be you.
You can not stop life from hurting you any more than you can stop gravity, my dear. You are not safe from life hurting you. Now live your life as if your death is certain. Because it is.
Young or old, healthy or sick, rich or poor, death is coming for all of us at the end.
But we have a choice.
Do we close our hearts and refuse to open it? Or do we love and sing and cry and do everything in our power to squeeze the marrow out of life — dancing until the end?
Life is a wild animal — fierce and free and beautiful, but ultimately, unpredictable, untamable, and unruly. This built-in uncertainty gives life a unique flavor which tastes exquisitely delicious if you live today.
You don’t have to wait for someone you care about to die to live life today. Every day you can live your life fully. Make the most of your present moment. Make time for your loved ones. And open your heart to life.
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