“Somebody ought to tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit every minute of every day. Do it, I say, whatever you want to do, do it now.” Michael Landon.
My mother died January 30, 2007. She was 98 years old. As my family gathered to honor her, a few things became very clear. The way my mother showed her love for us was by giving attention, kindness and laughter. She was a place where one could always go and count on being welcome and accepted.
My grandchildren who came to say their goodbyes to her are now old enough to understand at some point they will also be saying goodbye to me. And so we had the conversations about how my mother lives on in each of them and that when I die, a part of me will live on in them, too.
Then we switched to the importance of not taking life for granted, nor the people in it, living intentionally and being to our best ability the person we are created to be. It also led to some side conversations that began with the question to me, “Are you afraid of dying?” And so we looked at reality. Each of us will live, love, hurt, change, age, and die. No surprises about that.
I explained that I choose not to focus on the end of my life, nor to think I should feel good in every moment of it. And rather than worrying about what I may have to face, I choose to live it each day as it comes, believing I can handle whatever it brings.
After my children and grandchildren left, I gave those conversations more thought. I have come to the conclusion that even though my mother lived a very long time, it may not matter so much how long we live, but what we do with the time we have.
I hear people say, “When it slows down at work…” “When the kids are all aised….,” “When I retire….” We act as though we have unending amounts of time to do the things we dream about. But when someone you love dies, you are reminded life is now, this day will not be lived again.
A final gift from my mother is the reminder to pause and take stock of how I am living my days. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and I am again reminded of the way my mother said I love you. She gave attention, kindness, laughter, and the offer of a place where one could go and count on being welcome and accepted. But it was not just one day a year, it is the way she lived her life.
Not a bad legacy.