Learning from Life Lessons

Learning from Life Lessons

In 2019, my former neighbor who was sunshine embodied and whom I considered a second mother abruptly passed away from a heart aneurysm at age 48 while teaching a yoga retreat with her son in Vermont. The following year, my grandmother who, other than her old age and love for dessert, was fairly healthy died of a stroke. These two occurrences fall similar in more ways than being tragic, because it’s actually the similarity of what happened before them that forever changed my perspective on life. Two weeks before my neighbor died, she was in my driveway for a quick visit and I didn’t go outside to talk to her because I was rushing to get ready for church. One week before my grandma died, I stayed home rather than visiting her with my mom for such a silly reason that I can’t even remember what it was. While neither of these scenarios caused my neighbor’s or my grandmother’s death, nor would my presence have stopped them, I couldn’t help but feel immensely guilty about the lack of value that I placed on their lives in those moments and the ignorance that I had for how precious time is. After their deaths I mourned and wished for time travel so I could prioritize their lives. But there would be no change, no genie to set back the time and rid me of my grief. When you cannot change the past, you can only work to be better for the future. So, instead of extending my pity party I chose to celebrate the beautiful moments that I did share with my loved ones instead of the moments that I didn’t. With that, I swore to never take time for granted and to always accompany a goodbye with a hug and “I love you.” As C.S. Lewis once said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” With his wise words as my mantra I began to change my attitude on life and become a better person for it. This epiphany, while it was great, didn’t come easily. The news of each of their deaths brought me to the lowest points in my life. A time clouded with sadness, confusion, and regret. I remember praying on my knees alone at the side of my bed the night my grandmother had her stroke. She had been medflighted and was in a vegetative state but I desperately called to God to heal her. I remember sobbing while calling out Hail Mary’s, begging for her to be saved because I needed my grandma. I was questioning my christianity because I couldn’t comprehend how God could let my bible-thumping, annoyingly good grandmother die this way. She used to hold a faith club for disabled parishioners at church and whenever she was in public and saw a kid that looked like they just had their first communion, she would give them money- whether she knew them or not. She was that good. As for my neighbor, she would play kickball with us for hours, scream-sing and have dance parties to all our favorite songs and build snowmen whenever we asked. So, it’s easy to see why I was angry with God for letting them slip away. These were two of the brightest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing; and just like that, their lights were blown out. It was the knowledge that they would want me to decide to be better and hope that they would be watching and applaud my growth that encouraged me to cherish each and every moment I have. As dark as it is that it took the death of two people that I had so much love for to change my perspective on life, I’m so grateful that I was able to make lemonade with the immensely large lemons. With tragedy and hardship comes growth and I can confidently say that I’ve grown quite a bit. Since their passing, I have chosen to live each day striving to be kinder than necessary (a saying that my father instilled in me), because we have no time for fighting and making others feel anything less than good. I lead each day with intention and goals no matter the size or value. But most importantly, I never go to bed angry at someone and whenever I leave a person I care about, I leave them with a hug and “I love you.”

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