Thank you Kim ~ this blog post will resonate with everyone. It really grabbed my heart.
HOW LOSS BECAME MY BEST TEACHER OF LIFE
By Kim Esmond ~Infinite Smile Project
I love that ISP is a creative outlet for me to do so many things – exploring and sharing places I love, celebrating amazing people that inspire me, creative kindness projects I get to experiment on my kids and share with the world, and talking about what cultivates happiness and why kindness in this day and age is king.
However life is not always champagne and roses, right? There is something to be said about exposing oneself and sharing personal stories when the time feels natural. For me this is that time so I hope you will indulge me by reading my first “personal” post on ISP.
My husband is a very private person and I generally am not. Through many trials and tribulations I went through at a young age I found that it was helpful for me when asked a straight question, I gave a pretty straight and honest answer. It kept my life less complicated. As I have gotten older I have been told I am hard to get to know on an intimate level at first which may be true but this post is quite personal to me and I felt was important to share.
(Picture 1) The finger paint canvas art my three year old twins made for Neil so he had something beautiful in his room while here.
August 1st marked two months since we lost someone special in our family. Granted he was a relative of the family I married into but he was my favorite (and I married into what I consider to be an enormous family so that says a lot). When I used to travel the country as a college recruiter he would proudly escort me around his Alma Mater and show me the best time possible in “his” city. I loved it. We spent many family get togethers at the family farm or for holidays in California. He was an all-around stellar dude. An American hero flying choppers in the service, everyone’s friend, a caring soul, and always a sure bet for a good time.
We knew he had cancer for 3.5 years. It was hard to believe he was sick because he never once looked sick and never asked for pity. He was still the fun guy everyone loved as if nothing was going on. For respect of my family’s privacy I won’t go into details of his death but I can tell you it was heartbreaking. I had never witnessed anyone at the end of their life that was too young to pass and knew it was coming. In a candid conversation with my husband I told him I just didn’t think I could handle it, watching him go because I loved him so much and it was something I had never experienced before. My husband, ever rooted in his faith, assured me that now that he was here with family and friends he would be okay. In my husband’s eyes, that is all anyone ever needs.
(Picture 2) The children wrote messages of love they wanted to share with Neil to release into the sky that afternoon
I’ve always feared death mainly because I hadn’t had much experience with it. For the first time in my life I saw so much beauty surround something so tragic. I witnessed what an incredible family I married into as they all came from across the country to celebrate this man’s life. I saw such incredible strength in those around him who made it their sole purpose to provide comfort, happiness and strength for someone nearing the end of life. Most importantly I learned things that my husband did in his final moments that made him a true hero in my eyes. Though very private details, they were things that made me fall in love all over again and solidify the reasons why this was the person I chose to spend my life with and to father my children. What he did I wish I witnessed myself as I believe it would have possibly been one of the most beautiful moments in life one could ever see.
(picture 3) Some of the children releasing their messages for their beloved relative that day
My husband had asked me if I had talked to him like I wanted and expressed to him what I felt for him. I told him I never even considered that I wouldn’t have been granted that time so I didn’t get to do it like I had planned. It was certainly a teachable moment to me not only in death but in accordance to life as well. It’s amazing how death seems to teach us so much more about life than living sometimes.
(picture 4) Some of the balloons with messages floating up for Neil to receive. All in red, white and blue celebrating his contributions to our country in the military.
Given we all thought there was going to be more time there were many things this experience taught me that I would like to share. We all thought time was on our side, at least for a little longer. From this experience I learned time never is predictable and it has its own agenda. It made me think a lot over the last two months about life, loss and mostly living. Below are my private thoughts about these things in quite a public forum for me. Some simplistic and others a bit more rough in their delivery. Nevertheless, they are certainly honest.
1. Tell your loved ones you love them
Every day, all the time, and mean it. You just never know what tomorrow brings. I have experienced and know people who have experienced tragic things. Life should have no regrets and 3 simple words said can leave you with no regrets should something tragic occur.
2. Let go of grudges and forgive
It’s wasted energy that can be spent far more productively on other things. When tragedy hits all those small arguments or indifference seem to disappear. So why should this be any different in everyday life? If you knew someone you cared about was leaving you tomorrow would you still choose to hold onto whatever is bothering you?
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff
This has been something I have learned in the last year after my daughter’s surgery. I don’t care about how others parent their kids or what someone does in their free time. I don’t want to gossip or hear what someone “heard” about the new Mom in the playgroup. I don’t want to listen to someone complain that their flight was an hour late and they forgot their iPad and had nothing to do while sitting in the airport. It doesn’t matter to me if a person has an opinion on another based on some incident 5 years ago that appears irrelevant today. Really, I don’t care about these things and the very little time I have is much better spent and more fun enjoying moments and having conversations that are positive and productive. There are far worse things going on in the world and people with situations and tragedies in their lives that trump any problems most of us have today. It’s a matter of perspective and once you have it, when life is without any major complications it’s purely fantastic.
4. Don’t wait until tomorrow
That trip that you want to take? Use the money you have, pack your bags and take it. Been thinking of that old friend that you miss and wonder what’s new, just call them. I guarantee you will make their day. Always wanted to ditch your responsibilities for a day and go to the beach, just do it. One day won’t kill anyone. Plus, you’ve probably earned it – I mean REALLY earned it. And most importantly, if you have something to say to someone or do for them – good or bad – call or visit that person and make it happen. Whatever that outcome you will be glad you did if it is weighing on your soul.
5. Practice appreciation and gratitude daily
There are many days where we are so mad at our spouse or boyfriend that we can’t see straight. At these moments think of those you dated that treated you horribly and were masterful at being selfish. Then think of the amazing things your spouse has done and that you have one to argue with and pick up after. When your kids are driving you nuts pause for a moment and think of those who have lost a child or cannot get pregnant. As someone who miscarried so many times I believed I would never have my own children so this is something I try to remember during the times I’m pretty sure I am ready to pass them off to a neighbor for a few hours. When you want that bigger house or wish to move closer to the beach know that even the poorest living in most places in the U.S. are still incredibly rich to many areas in the world who don’t have a home, water, food or freedom.
It’s so difficult to take the time in our crazy, fast-paced, over-scheduled lives to appreciate the things in life that really matter. So this weekend try and practice gratitude for things many take for granted. Enjoy your time with a loved one, spend time at the park or beach and enjoy its beauty, and smile at those you pass on the street. Just spend 48 hours in appreciation of all that has been given to you, enjoy each moment as it happens this weekend and soak it all in with gratitude. I promise as Monday rolls around, it won’t seem so bad after all.