The older I get, the less I believe in the saying “everything happens for a reason.” My heart and head just can’t quite wrap around why some things have to happen. One thing I have always believed in though, and still do, is that there is a lesson to be learned in everything that happens. My dad spent his last day on earth two years ago, after fighting an awful 10 year battle with Lewy Body Dementia, and the lessons from going through that are forever ingrained in me, and I would even go to say changed my life forever.
The end of life hospice staff came on his last day and sat with my mom, brother and I. We talked about some of our favorite memories, the adventures we had been on together, and our favorite things about our dad. She said that she had been involved in hospice for longer than I had probably been alive, and there was one thing she had heard more than anything else.. “People always wait. They wait until their kids are older, or until retirement, or until the house is paid off. They wait to do the things they have always wanted to do. If I can tell you one thing to take with you today, it’s don’t wait, just do.” I watched my mom, my best friend, as tears strolled down her face, and I knew that she felt that, and I felt it too.
I held my dad’s hand that day and promised him that I was going to do my best to live that I was proud of, of that he would be too. I was going to quit waiting, and start doing. I don’t mean that in a Cash-out-your-life-savings-and-move-to-Hawaii kind of way ( although you do you, boo) but more in a make-the-most-of-each-day-the-best-that-you-can kind of way.
I wear my heart of my sleeve more than I ever have in the past. I tell my kids I love them so many times a day, my three year old sometimes responds to his name with “I love you too mom.” I try to tell my friends, my family, and those close to me how important they are to me and what I treasure about them when I feel it. On the contrary, If I’m upset with someone, I tell them, or if my feelings are hurt, I tell them too. I don’t have time to hold grudges and let resentment build sis, I have a life to love over here.
I take so many more pictures than before. I was a professional photographer for 6 years, so this is kind of in my nature anyway, but I take them unapologetically now. Big and small moments. Pictures have a whole new importance when they are all that’s left, and I absolutely love looking at photos of me and my dad. I’m so thankful that my mom was always good about this growing up, and I want that for my kids too.
I don’t fear aging as I once did, but if anything, I am grateful for it. Not long ago there was an “aging challenge” going around on Facebook where you uploaded a picture and it showed what you would look like as an elder, and I’m sure most of you reading this either saw or participated in it. There were so many comments on hoping to age well or avoiding all those wrinkles, but all I could think about would how lucky we would all be to get to that age, especially with the ones we love the most. Each birthday is another year getting to enjoy all this life has to offer, and for that I am thankful.
More than anything though, I just try to find the joy in every single day. I stop to appreciate a beautiful sunset when I see one, sometimes I take the long way home just to listen to a favorite song a little longer, and I say yes to adventures more than ever before. We live such a beautifully fragile life, and I’m more aware than ever that whether it’s a year from now or 60 years from now, most of us are going to be leaving this earth before we are ready.
At his funeral and over the course of the few weeks after, hundreds of people offered kind words about my dad. Very few mentioned about his life work in trucking, or how perfect his lawn was ( but honestly, it was), but instead, we heard a lot of how he was someone you could always count on, how humble & kind he was, or how well he loved those he cared about. How he had this big huge smile and this amazing laugh. And those are the things that made me so proud of the life he had lived, and things I hope people can say when my day comes someday, too.