My father often used a phrase “be good to the living because when you’re dead, you’re dead!!” My mother often referred to this phrase as I was growing up and still today, at 91, she reminds me to look at life this way. I get it, treat those we love and everyone for that matter well because once we cross over to another life, you can’t press rewind on how you spent time with that person.
Having lost 2 brothers within the past 5 years, I have experienced in myself and heard from others often where “I wish I did this differently, I wish I spent more time with…… or I wish I said this to……”. As I see my mom age, I know that one day she will move on to eternal life. When I drive to New Jersey to see her, my time with her is more mindful, more thoughtful and filled with questions about her life. I write journal our conversations and sometimes record her answers. As we are talking I really look into her eyes to see the color. I did this with my grandmother a few years before she passed away and saw that her eyes were milk chocolate brown. You know, I always remember that moment when I consciously told myself to look deeply into her eyes as we were chatting. That pleasant memory is forever ingrained in my soul.
I wish I could ingrain this in the younger generation that when our elders are gone, they are gone. We have lost a piece of history whether that is from our family history or long term friendships. We cry at our loved ones funerals yet I can’t wrap my head around those who have so many chances to be fully present with loved ones when they are alive yet don’t make the time. Why put yourself through the regrets or the guilt when you can give them an incredible gift of your attention right now?
We can’t rewrite time, we can only live in the present and be here now. What could be more important than spending some or even a little quality time with our elders? There are days that they wait for us, hoping we’ll show up and never really asking for us to visit because they know we are raising families, immersed in busy careers and tending to household responsibilities. But that is what we do every day. When I go visit my mom and I see other senior citizens sitting by themselves, my heart is heavy because I rarely see any activity in their rooms. What a difference it would make if a loved one showed up and just sat with them. My mom and I talk and then there is silence as I see her pick up her newspaper, flip on Fox News (oh that Fox News) and sometimes I catch her looking over at me and I see a sense of peace and security on her face. She will often walk over to the dining room where I set up my work space when I visit and sit with me. She looks at what I’m working on and asks questions. Mom always asks about my employees so I pull up pictures and tell her about them. These are treasured moments with her.
I have also learned to put boundaries in place with people who are toxic and take me away from spending time with treasured relationships. These are hard choices that we have to make but necessary in order to live a healthy life. As the saying says, “be good to the living” which means WE are part of the living. Over the past 5 years I have stepped back from a couple of relationships and what that did is open up the space for childhood friends to step in as well as give me the time to be with people who had less of me because of the time I was giving to a small few of toxic relationships. Today, my life is filled with more love than ever, so joyful and focused on the moments that matter. Thanks to my mom and dad for passing down that phrase……I get it!!