I believe we are always making meaning of our lives. We make meaning in the moment, but also as we remember things looking back, down the road.
The recent loss of a most wonderful woman from my past recently brought me to a time of reflection, gratitude, and joy. It would be inappropriate, misleading, to call her friend. We were friendly, I even spent time in her home from time to time. I am friends with her friends. We were both a part of this extraordinary community, of which she was one of the most essential pillars. She died too young, so young, after several years with metastatic breast cancer. She leaves behind very young adult children and an equally heart-warming husband among the countless others who were touched by her presence.
At her funeral, her husband spoke of things he learned by her example in her last days and weeks: to be grateful; be kind; and savor life. This was part of her life-long essence, and he wanted us all to walk away with a piece of that, a peace with that. In a way, it’s not surprising. Science has, for years, told us the importance of a grateful heart, the importance of taking pause and living with purposeful heart.
Still, for a week I sat with a twist in my heart, a wrench in my gut. Looking back at the two years I was a daily and weekly part of that community, I was distracted as I worked through some recent pains in my life at that time. I wasn’t grateful or savoring life at that time. I was merely trying to survive. And now I look back and feel a little like I lost out.
It’s a feeling I get now that my children are not so young anymore. The youngest is almost out of diapers. I get enough sleep now, and have almost-independent-enough children. I now understand anew when people would tell me “cherish every moment.” You see, in that moment, when you are sleep-deprived and disoriented from parenthood, that “cherish every moment” line just puts additional pressure on you. It’s one more thing on the to-do list and it’s a hefty one.
I feel like now I’m far away enough from the challenges of that first infant year, that year or so when I had three aged four and under. I can look back now and cherish those moments from afar. I’m grateful for them; I savor them. I have enough distance that I can make meaning of those seemingly endless days and weeks. I think for just amount-- until the pain becomes too uncomfortable, dark-- about the thought of dying young with so much of my life-- my children’s life-- ahead. And yet I’m inspired, not quaking in fear.
In the midst of so much strife in the world, I believe deeply in the power and importance of kindness. And in those moments when I could busy my mind and hands I will stop and savor. Not just the first snow or second, but each and every piece of it, the daily grind. And since I know that I likely won’t stay true to savoring life in all its little moments, I commit to trying to do so and to always savor it in retrospect and making purposeful attempts to savor the present moment.
We are in the midst of deciding our focus for the new year. It’s a time of reflection, nostalgia, and joy. Join me. Be grateful. Be kind. Savor life.
Anne is a mom of three, forever living the quest of a beloved woman who knew what life was about.