A Wake-Up Call

Thursday, March 05, 2020
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I had a post planned for today on cultivating relationships in your career, but something else was on my heart. It’s been a very eye-opening past few weeks, and I can’t help but feel as if there’s a hidden message underneath it all for me.

At the beginning of last week, we received word the father of one of the students at our school passed away unexpectedly while on a business trip. He was not yet 50. I watched the school community pull together and do what they could to help the wife and son whose world was turned upside down in an instant. A day later, the pastor at our church notified us that one of teens in our youth program had also died. From the messaging on the initial e-mail, my heart sank when I realized he had taken his own life. My children were stunned and confused that their peer, who had just turned 18 and been accepted into his dream college, was gone. This was a boy who lit up every room he walked into--he was always smiling and making sure everyone else’s needs were met before his own. It was even more difficult as we all processed that this boy’s father had died just three years earlier, leaving us concerned for his mother and how she was coping.

As we were preparing to attend this boy’s visitation and funeral services, my husband got a text message that a former co-worker lost his battle with cancer over the weekend. We hadn’t even known this man, who was 45 years old, was ill. He had chosen to fight his battle privately and with as little fanfare as possible.

It was a lot to take in all at once. While I have had a pile of work to dig through, it’s been hard to focus. There have been a lot of tears and questions. I’ve also had to sit back and marvel at how hectic our lives have become, and how all of these deaths happened suddenly and for the most part, without warning. As I was on a walk recently, listening to one of my favorite motivational speakers, she told a story about how her brother-in-law had unexpectedly passed away a few months ago at the age of 43. He and her sister had always said they were going to travel “one day,” when they had enough time and money. Now that day will never come.

I’ve already pushed my own husband to plan a few trips this year, including one for our 20-year wedding anniversary. We both worked so hard over the past few years that we haven’t taken enough time to decompress from it all. I know now that’s a mistake. I’ve also tried to take time to reach out to friends I haven’t talked to in a while and tell my kids how much I love them and am there for them if they ever need me. I also realize it’s time to quit putting off all these writing projects I want to publish and produce.

We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. We don’t want to our dreams to pass us by because “the time isn’t right yet.”

Make the time to follow your heart and hold your loved ones tight today.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and magazine editor. Visit her website at FinishedPages.com.

7 comments:

Margo Dill said...

Renee: I am so sorry that you have been experiencing all of that loss. So tough and I'm sure for your kids, too. We recently had a terrible tragedy happen at our church, with two members in their 70s who were married and very active and were killed in a car crash (and the parents of one of my friends!), and we were all rocked to the core. A lot of the same advice about living each day to the fullest. Hang in there and do follow your dreams, but also give yourself some space to grieve.

Angela said...

Renee, I wrote an essay about something similar... my husband and I had gone to four funerals in a month, one for our cousin's daughter who'd just turned one. It was a beautiful ceremony and they released butterflies, but so sad to think of life just starting and then ending. I also came to the same conclusion in my essay...to be grateful for our loved ones (Mike and I were arguing at the time, but I was grateful we could argue - it's often our favorite form of communication :), and yes, to follow your dreams.
We've put off moving so often, but our goal is to move out of the country, and we're actively looking to do that this year with an October deadline. After cancer and bone infections and everything else, he finally realized we shouldn't wait any longer. We've been wanting to do this for 21 years but, as you said, the timing was never right. I also took the plunge with the new website and don't even have a decent plan, but figured I'd just wing it. You got to start somewhere. We want to move to Okinawa, so I can reconnect with the family I haven't seen since my mom took her life. For years, I struggled with that darkness myself although no one knew it, and that makes me think of your children's friend, and I am glad you are talking about this. It is hard to lose a parent so young, and it is tragic to think that grief from his father's death was most likely weighing upon him, as well as whatever else he was going through... This is why it's so important to talk about death, which in the US we are so constantly busy we don't seem to take enough time to grieve and even seem to put time limits on grief, which is such an individual thing, and I know personally, I will grieve for a lifetime. Also talking about suicide prevention awareness is so important, so thank you, Renee for bringing up this discussion. I'm so sorry you are going through all of this, and I'm sending my love to you, since I consider you and the entire team at WOW my loved ones.

Beverley Baird said...

So much heartache in your community. So sorry for your losses. Your post touched me on so many levels. And you are so right - we only have today. We must not put off living life to the fullest for a later date. My husband and I had planned to travel after he retired. But his health deteriorated so much after he did, we dare not leave our city as he needs to be close to our hospital.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--I'm so sorry you've experienced so much loss recently. Sharing it... talking about it--that's so important. People who have lost friends/family members and keep it all bottled up inside suffer more than if they opened up with other people.

Yes. Travel. Work on the projects now that you're passionate about. Nothing about life is guaranteed.

Renee Roberson said...

Margo--Thank you. I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your friends. I know that must have been a heartbreaking situation for you all to go through.
Angela--At first I was heartbroken for my kids to have to lose a peer to suicide, but it has also brought about some important discussions. They know now that you just never know what a person is going through on the inside, and the importance of being a good friend. (My daughter shared with us this week that she once spent an entire night on the phone with a friend because she had a feeling he was considering his own life, and he was able to pull through). I think it also triggered something in me, bringing back a lot of old memories from the dark periods of my own life.

I think moving to Okinawa sounds like an amazing move for you and Mike, especially after the past fewI years you've had.

Beverely--Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm so sorry you did not get to engage in all your travel plans before your husband's health issues took over. This is the kind of thing I try to tell my own husband--that there's no guarantee both of us will be able to travel when our kids are in college and beyond. You just never know.

Sioux-- I've done more crying over the past week than I have in months but I guess it was necessary. It is so true that is so much more painful and destructive when we can't have honest discussions about the topic of suicide prevention and mental health. The stigma needs to change.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Oh, I could probably write a book on loss and grieving--and maybe someday I will--but this I know: it's really all about love.

So maybe we don't have the time to make the trips or follow the dreams 'cause we're busy working, taking care of kids or parents or kids AND parents, but you know, just make sure you make the time to love all the people in your life.

I think that's enough. And sometimes way harder than it looks. :-) Hugs to you, Renee!

Renee Roberson said...

Cathy,

You are so, so right. My husband got to talk to the wife of the man who passed away at the age of 45 last week, and she was grateful that they had the chance to all spend quality time together with their small children during his illness. He knew he wouldn't be able to beat the cancer, so they focused on each other as best as they could and it really gave her peace. I will also try to remember that on the days when I'm overwhelmed and trying to figure out how juggle everything.

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