Before I Say Goodnight
Before I Say Goodnight
Each night after I tuck my children to bed, and lock my home up for the day, I welcome silence once again into my world. It’s in those moments, as any mother with young children will tell you when the frenzied momentum of my day slows down and takes a break. It’s those few last minutes that I have to myself before I call it a night and the manic yet blissfully happy routine repeats itself with the morning alarm.
And each night, I take the time to sift through the newspaper. In our fast-paced times when the morning’s events are already old news by night, I try to catch up with the rest of the world. Until I reach the obituaries section!!
And each day, in the dead of the night, I humbly spend a few minutes going through the names and faces that stare back at me. I scout the pictures to see if there’s anyone I know, then breathe a selfish sigh of relief when there isn’t. Then I analyze the names of the family members they left behind. It’s a rather strange ritual of sorts, I know. How it began I cannot say, but these people who I never knew, and now never will, all tell me their story as they leave.
The young deaths are always the saddest. Those smiling faces, always a great blow. My eyes immediately roam over the names of their family….parents, grandparents, siblings, sometimes a young spouse or worse infant children in grief. People who didn’t deserve to suffer this loss. People who couldn’t possibly be prepared. Whose lives and the world have been permanently, irreparably altered. I think of how they must sleep at night, dreaming of being with the person they’ve loved….then waking up the next morning, and for those too few blissful, disoriented moments thinking all is well in their world, until the brutal truth of their reality stabs them in their soul again. And my heart goes out to them. If there’s any power in thoughts and prayer, and I like to believe there is, I can only pray with all my heart, that mine reach out and touch them in some mystic way.
Then I see the ones that age claimed. We’ve all had to part ways with someone we love dearly this way. It’s the law of nature, the old making way for the new and in a cold, mechanical way that should seem right. Yet it doesn’t. There’s always a long list of family members in mourning attached to these obituaries. Sometimes a rhyme or verse about the legacy this person left behind and the lives they touched. And you take some consolation in the fact that they probably lived a long happy fulfilled life. Yet the truth is their family didn’t get to decide when enough is really enough. A spouse of 50 years with all the worldly wisdom still misses having their companion, their best friend beside them in bed. Their last days without the person who had grown onto them like a limb, amputated forever. Does that seem fair?
And then when it all gets too much to take in, I try to remind myself with the flip of a page, that life goes on and it must. Today I can only be grateful it’s not one of my own in these pages, I can pray God gives these people all the strength that they need, I can humbly accept that at the end of the day that’s all we become…a picture in the paper, or the wall of our home, imprinted forever on our loved one’s soul. All we ever were, all that we achieved comes down to just that. And one day someone else will be looking down at me in this section, probably wondering what my story was.
And two things strike me at once…why do we remember and praise the dearly departed after they are gone? Does it matter now? Can they hear? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could read them their obituaries before they left, so they could know how many people loved them, that they would be missed, that their life meant so much.
And the other is when people say ‘he or she was too young to go’
Or ‘still had so much to do’!
I’ve seen this regret torment the person’s family. Their moments of grief are made even more unbearable by the thoughts that the person they loved won’t be there to enjoy their child’s marriage, grandchild’s birth, career achievements.
And it makes me think….what if it was me, if I had to go suddenly, all too soon, before my time?
I know in my heart, without needing to read my obituary, exactly whose lives I would leave a permanent void in…and the ones who would miss me terribly for a while but who would thankfully be able to move past it, and then there would be those…. friends of friends who met me once…. who would be too stunned by the suddenness of it all, probably share their thoughts on how fickle life is on social networking sites, but once the shock wore off would resume life as normal.
But what really pains me is that I know I won’t be given the chance to let my family know what they meant to me. To hold them again or wipe their tears. And I wouldn’t want the people I love to go through that additional pain of the unfairness of why my life was so short, or feel any guilt whatsoever when they eventually (and hopefully quickly) proceed with another chapter of their lives, wondering if I would have wanted to be there.
So, unconventional as it is (because we never really like to think about these things, pretend if we don’t talk about our deaths we prolong our lives forever), I’d like to say what I need to, now, while there is still time. I need to reassure and relieve my family of the one thing that they should not be crying over!
So I’m writing this ‘self-ituary’ just to say:
To my dearest family and friends,
“I’ve lived, I’ve loved, I got far more than I deserve. I truly thank God for my loving family. Of course I wish I had more time with them but I know I have no right to ask for more. Please remember you were my life’s success, my achievement, my joy. And I’ll forever be grateful for this time with you.
But do not waste even a moment of your time feeling sorry because I didn’t have the luxury of turning grey. If this life is meant to be a brief vacation, a pit stop in the journey of our soul, then it has been a most pleasant one for me. Nobody guaranteed us this holiday would last forever. But what if someone did give me a choice…brief but exhilarating or long and painful? What if I picked the former? As I would again..I’ve received my share of love. Had tons of fun to fill up one lifetime.
Life, truly is a gift, one that we cannot exchange, return or redeem. Do I have any right to complain that my gift wasn’t large enough??
So I implore you, don’t waste your tears on the days that I could have had but be secure in the knowledge that I’ve treasured the ones that I did.
We’re never ready to leave but if I must, I know I’ve been given more than what I need and I’m grateful for it all. So please carry on safe in the knowledge that my journey and my party is continuing elsewhere while yours over here MUST NOT end just yet!”
With that thought I’ve reached my favorite section of the newspaper…the cartoon strips.
So on that note….
Tomorrow will be yet another beautiful day!!