Death is a normal part of life.
In my business, advocating for people in all walks of life, death is constant. The more people you know alive, the greater the rate of death in the end,
Funerals, strangely enough, have been called my forte by those closest to me. I have always encouraged those closest to me to be honest about reviewing my function in leadership and open about what I do well and not-so-well. Every time I ask, I always hear, “You really shine at funerals. You have a way of bringing things together for the families. Your encouragement and boldness really help those grieving.”
I don’t know if this is true, I don’t feel it in myself. I honestly hate death. And the more I see, the worse it becomes. Seeing people suffer the loss of loved ones takes a toll on the human soul. Especially mine.
But that’s not the point of this writing. My point is going to be simple. I have lost a lot of people in the last two years and things will never be the same. Maybe some of you can relate. In the end, the conversation has come to a close, so make it count.
Just weeks before his death, a life-long friend stood in my driveway and asked for prayer. He wasn’t feeling well and Covid had just started its trek across the country. We talked briefly that day about the frailty of our bodies and how quickly things can just turn on a dime. We discussed the nature of hope and how so many seek to find truth in manifold places, but we had been found by truth. Neither of us knew that this would be our last conversation.
This happened again, over and over. Friends and family enjoying brief moments, then gone. From June 2020 to January 2022, over 130 people who were in my life for decades were gone. Just like that, the conversation was over. The measure of this has yet to be beheld.
Learning to move on is not as simple as “staying on task”, which is something I teach my kids to do no matter what. Getting to the administration of death is often emotionally draining, even when we don’t see it. The mere practice of cleaning up my google contacts provided a harrowing wake-up call as I went through other names asking, “I wonder how they are doing?” A few weeks into the contact purge, my phone buzzed and out of the blue, a message from a dear friend, who I had mistakenly heard had passed, shocked me.
It was a welcome mistake, but an eerie moment. Talking, I realized that he had messaged that he was ill and that things didn’t look good. When I didn’t hear back after months, I guess my mind just followed suit with what seemed normative. I am glad I was wrong.
I don’t know how to really relate these experiences to life holistically, but one day I will have the wisdom to reflect and make some sense of it all. Until then, I want to make, not desperately, but intentionally, every moment worth something. Even if the moment appears trivial, it isn’t. The fight toward melancholy gloom is always at work, but in this season, expressing the shared reality of loss is healthy and I think we all need to speak more about it.
Recently, two dear friends have died. One was in his sixties and another was in his early thirties. I can only reflect on the times we spent and the investment that was made both in my life and in theirs. As long as we all keep talking, the intimacy continues and life goes on. When Robyn and I started working with online communities in 1996, we never knew how much a “:)” would change the world. There are times when just a quick message makes a deep impact. If I resign over my losses, I will lose even more. If I cherish the time I have been given, I will grow to create more opportunities with even more amazing people who I can call friends.
Never underestimate the power of a loving smile. Even if it is an emoticon. [That is the original term that we coined folks. AKA Emoji]