The saying, "you don't know what you've got till' it's gone," hits us like a freight train every single time we lose somebody unexpectedly. And even when it is expected, the what ifs flood our minds like waves on the shore – relentless and perpetual. Most of us are taught from a young age what death is. Some of us learn when a family pet passes, and others perhaps with a grandparent.
Whatever way in which you discovered this inexplicable part of life, it does in no way get you ready you for the next time you come across it. Nothing in the world could ever prepare you for a moment of this nature, and perhaps that's the most difficult part about loss. If you've ever gotten the phone call or news that someone close or even distant to you is no longer here, it kicks your ass, emotionally, mentally and physically. It shakes you to your core, leaving you with an unbearable feeling of emptiness.
I received this phone call a few days ago. A long-time childhood friend of mine was taken far too young, and despite having only periodic contact on birthdays and Christmas, this news, like it does every time, left me breathless and without words.
We hear about tragedies every day in the news, and most of us are guilty of thinking, "that would never happen to me." And as a result, we take those we love and those who occupy space in our hearts for granted. You don't know what tragedy looks or feels like until you get that call, and all at once, a flashback of every memory you have with that person comes crashing down on you. They replay over and over again in your mind, making you wish you could go back and relive that very moment. You linger on every single detail, and fail to comprehend the how or the why. And perhaps you never quite understand these things, but regardless, the heartache sets in and you're left with nothing more than memories.
So as I sit here, wishing I could go back and have just one more moment with my old friend, I think about the lessons I can learn from this sudden and tragic experience. It has taught me to step back from the uncertainties and unknowns in my life, and just be grateful for the things I am certain about – how much I love my family, friends and all those who have left a footprint in my heart.
Each person we meet in our lives makes an impact on us – some good, some bad and some simply neutral. But whatever that impact, they shape who we are, the choices we make and the life that we live. It's hard to see any good in a devastating occurrence like death, however, I've learned that through this anguish, we can all learn to appreciate what we have. Because in an instant, it could all be gone.
We mustn't look too far ahead, because in doing so, we lose sight of the present moment. We create a story in our minds about what we want, who we want to surround ourselves with and what our master plan is supposed to look like. But I ask you not to fantasize about what is to come – the destination is irrelevant. What's important is the journey we're on, and the people we have met and will continue to meet along the way.
It's a dose of reality that I wasn't expecting, however, it's forced me reevaluate the most important aspects of my life – the people that are in it. These "wake up calls" shouldn't be the reason we tell the people we love how important they are to us. But when we are submerged in a full-time job, or a busy schedule, it allows us to get caught up in things that make us lose sight of the here and now. We mustn't take a moment for granted; instead, take a moment, each and every day to be grateful for the people in our lives that make this journey worthwhile.
At one point or another, we are all going to receive a phone call or news of this nature, and I can promise you, it will never get easier. You will never uncover why or how things like this happen – I suppose it's a part of life that nobody has answers to. The pain and sadness will pour in, and leave you wondering why you didn't do or say more. If we can all work towards telling the people we love just how much we love them, then perhaps when the phone rings the next time, you'll know that that they left this world knowing how grateful you were for their time here.
Be thankful for the people who you love, because like that old saying goes, "you don't know what you've got till' it's gone," so be sure while you have the chance to recognize what you have and how lucky you are.