Yikes, it’s been almost a full two weeks since I’ve last posted! I know what you’re thinking: “Man, here’s the old Alice again, going on blogging purges for a little while and then not blogging at all for like half a year.” I promise you, this is not the case. I was very much aware of my negligence.
On February 15th, RJ’s grandfather, Toby, passed away very unexpectedly. Well, I suppose for the week leading up to his death it wasn’t so unexpected. But Toby passed away as a result of head trauma, which is something no one can really anticipate.
For the past week, RJ and I have been in Colorado spending time with family and helping out with the funeral arrangements. It was such a sweet time sharing stories about Toby, remembering him, celebrating his life, and spending extended quality time together with family. All of the grandkids have gotten to that age where the only time the entire family gathers all together like this anymore is for weddings and as of late, funerals. And usually for weddings, the immediate family is running around like mad people getting last minute stuff done. I know. I’ve been there.
So this time together with family really was a treat. I like to think that God threw in a snowstorm on Sunday so that some family members would be snowed in and we could spend a little more time together. ;)
I think it’s really dumb that it takes a death for people, for me, to begin thinking about life and what really matters. But that’s what Toby’s sudden passing did. It jolted me out of my day-to-day complacency and got me thinking about life and death.
Here are some things I have been thinking a lot about since Toby’s passing, in no particular order.
- We like to think that we are in control, but we’re really not. I’m the worst at this, and I’m trying to be better about it. I like to plan ahead. “I’ll work for two full years, get my hours, pay off my student loans, get licensed, have a baby, work half-time until I pay off the rest of my student loans, get trained with the Navigators in ___, have more babies, move ___, settle down, put away some money for my kid’s college fund, etc. etc. etc.” God’s showed me time and time again that I’m NOT in control. And yet I still worry and angst like I am. Sudden deaths are just reminders of how NOT in control you are. And without hope and faith in a good God, I can’t even imagine how hard it must be not to be overcome by the uncertainty of this reality.
- We like to think that we have all of the time in the world, but we don’t. “I’ll wait until I have a secure job before I start walking with God.” “I’ll wait until life slows down before I work on my relationship with my spouse.” “I’ll wait until I put my kid through school before I work on my relationship with him/her.” “I’ll wait this,” “I’ll wait that,” NO!! We can’t wait, and those who do are often filled with regret when it’s too late. Some things are too valuable to wait for, and most of the time, it’s when we’ve waited too long before we realize this.
- Life is too short to live in fear of what others will think of you. One of RJ’s aunts told me, “You know, Toby really just loved you. He said so many nice things about you.” And then she paused. “I wasn’t going to tell you that, but you know, life’s just too short to keep things to ourselves!!” As a recovering people-pleaser, I know what it’s like to live in fear of what others may think if you do this or you do that or you say this or you say that. Will they be awkwarded out? Is it too personal? But life is too damn short to be bound by those fears and to be filled with regret when you’ve found that you’ve missed your last opportunity. Tell your loved ones what they mean to you any chance you get. Encourage. Build up. Confront. Work it out. Life’s just too short.
- Life is too short to be too prideful to tell someone that you need them or that you are lonely. I’ve seen too many people live pridefully for too long, building up a strong-man facade, pretending that they don’t need anyone when really, their hearts ache to be known and to be loved. And this is tough, because many times these people have been hurt in the past when they have let their guard down. But to be vulnerable, to let your guard down, to love and be loved, to know and to be known authentically for all that you are, these are some of life’s greatest joys. And we can’t let our pride take away from life’s greatest gifts. Life is just too short.
- Life is too short to hold a grudge, against yourself, against others, and against God. Forgive and be forgiven. Let go and let God. Because you just might come across a day when you miss your final opportunity to be reconciled with someone. And you just might end up realizing at the end of your life that you’ve missed out on so much freedom, joy, and love in life by refusing to let go of unforgiveness.
- Life is too short to take for granted the small things in life. On the day that Toby was laid to rest, we watched some recent videos of him. One was just a short little clip where RJ’s cousins had caught Toby taking a walk and called down to him from the balcony. Nothing special, nothing major, nothing out of the ordinary. Just an everyday occurrence. And yet it’s those small “taken-for-granted” everyday occurrences that are missed and craved the most when they’re gone. For me, I would like to resolve to take more videos and pictures of not just special occasions, but everyday life, just for this very reason.
- Life is too short to not be intentional about the legacy you want to leave behind. Toby left an impression on his wife, on his daughters, on his sons-in-laws, on his grandchildren, and even on his grandchildren’s spouses. Though he is no longer with us, there are pieces of him and his heart still walking around all over the world, because of the life, love, and wisdom he imparted to his family. He left a legacy of love, of compassion, of service, of a love for music, of a love of all things Hello Kitty, of intelligence, of fierce loyalty, of a higher value placed on people than things, of a witty humor, and of a naughty impishness that carried on into his old age. Such a full legacy doesn’t just happen. It takes intentionality. What is it that you want to leave behind?
- Life is too short to choose work over family. The last time we saw Toby was at RJ’s uncle’s wake about three years ago. We had an opportunity to see him one last time this past October when a lot of family was in the Bay Area, though we didn’t know it would be the last time. Because it was in the beginning of the school year (our busiest recruiting season with the Navigators), and because of the financial cost of the trip, we chose not to make the trip, thinking we would see him later this year at a cousin’s wedding. We were wrong, and you know, we were really filled with regret that we had missed our last opportunity to see him in finding out about his death. Work would have been fine without us, and no financial cost could ever outweigh the value of being with family. We won’t make that same mistake again.
- Life is too short to waste on social media. Ugh, I am SO a culprit with this one, filling my spare moments by scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (which BTW, I totally just got a ticket for checking my phone at a stop light today. Blah.), “connecting” with people via the internet through my “likes” and “comments,” and thinking that’s good enough, while missing out on the fullness of true , deep, and authentic relationships and you know, missing out on the fullness of life itself. It’s time to get off our computers and our phones, and to get on with our lives!
- Life is too short to not live out the love story of our lives. I probably won’t be able to make it through writing this without bawling, but here goes. Toby and Nana were true partners and companions in life. They were married for over 50 years, which is an Olympic feat in this day and age, and not only that, they still had a fun banter and sweet relationship about them, full of love and full of laughs. In his last week, Toby had lost all brain activity and Nana had to make the heart-breaking decision to take him off of the machines that kept him breathing and alive. When the time came to do so, the daughters and Nana sang to him, took turns holding his hand, and said their goodbyes as his vitals dropped lower and lower. When his vital levels reached 0, one daughter gently said to Nana, “Mom, I think you should say your goodbyes now.” And as Nana whispered her goodbye into the love of her life’s ear, though he no longer had any brain activity and though his vital levels had reached 0%, somehow he just knew and recognized the love of his life, and his levels miraculously spiked back up to 20% before coming to a final resting place. This isn’t that fake crap, like The Notebook. This is a real life, true love story. And life is just too short to rob ourselves of the depths of joy and love that living out the love story of our lives has to offer. We don’t have to live it out vicariously through movies and books. We can live it out for ourselves.
Like I said, it’s just dumb that it takes a death to remember and think about these things. And knowing me, in a year, I’ll probably go back to my typical complacency in life. But I really hope not.
Because life’s too short to forget these things.