Let’s be honest, death is something we all would rather not think about yet everyday we are bombarded by media (news, movies, videos) that remind us it’s only a matter of time before ours is up. One trip on any roadway is a stiff reminder of how closely we come to death everyday.
Living each day as if it could be your last and actually knowing you are going to die are two completely different mindsets. First of all, having to make peace with a terminal disease has to be one of the most difficult things a person could be faced with.
At once, what you will leave behind becomes more and more important. Each interaction with loved ones become more precious and purposeful. Each small treasure, old memento, photograph, clothes, plants or books all beg to be given to a person that will appreciate it . . . but for the person dying – doling out your life and seeing so much of it boxed up, donated or put to the curb only deepens the depression that inevitably grips your very soul.
After spending some time this weekend reflecting on the recent loss of a dear family member, I couldn’t help but look around my house and think about what I would leave behind. I wondered if the things I treasured would be so carelessly tossed out, cut down or sold as I have seen happen over the years with those who have passed before me.
I have loved and collected antiques and books because I feel as though I am saving a story, and keeping a piece of history safe. When we pass away there are things that will carry significant meaning and memories. It could be anything of any size – it is important because our loved ones make it important. They give it their reverence and make sure others in their family understand it’s significance and value and that they are to do anything to protect it.
If I could leave behind anything of the physical world behind for my family, I would choose a tree. It would take generations to mature but once large enough, it could steadfastly offer shade on a sunny day and eventually grow strong branches to hold a rope swing and muggy laughter of generations.
The tree would be a reminder of the woman I had become. It would be a reminder that we all are always growing, changing, bending and reaching. That we are vulnerable to things outside of our control.
I realize that the importance of what we leave behind is not necessarily only in the material possessions, but the true beauty of how we are remembered is in the hearts, minds and spirits of those we have touched along the way.
My lesson? Live each day reaching for the assurance that what we leave behind is something we can be proud of.
Jo Maeder is not a client and did not pay to be mentioned in this post. I think she’s smart, funny and did and amazing job sharing her story.