Someone once said very matter of fact, “It’s their birthday, so we have to go to the cemetery, because you have to go to the cemetery on their birthday.” To them it wasn’t just what they did to honor their family that had passed, it was What Was Done. It hit my gut like it a punch. You have to go to the cemetery on their birthday and yet I hadn’t gone that year. Was I a bad daughter because I had missed going to the cemetery on his birthday? I was on the ship that particular year, on a contract in Asia. I tried to remember if I had gone the year before that. A decade in and a comment like that still made me second guess whether or not I loved or honored or grieved right.
The other day was my dad’s birthday and I did actually go to the cemetery on his birthday. It’s not a very fun birthday party. He would have been 63 and I literally can’t imagine what my life would look like if he was still here. It’d be nice to show him Scotland, would have been fun to have him come sail on the ships over the years. Anytime something in my house breaks I wish he was around to call to ask how to fix it. Speculation is futile, though.
I don’t think my dad would have minded that I missed his birthday that year, being on a ship heading to Asia, going to climb the Great Wall of China, see the skyline of Shanghai, walk amongst Komodo dragons. In fact, being there, being out and doing things, and making the most of this life probably was honoring him even more. Everyone grieves in their own way, everyone lives in their own way, and it is okay if they, I, the world, doesn’t do it all the same or the same that you do.
While grief can be real, the bigger reality is that life is short. Saving for retirement is great and frugal and wise. Saving up your life, whether that be experiences, the love that you share, or the time that you take, until some date far in the future, is tragic. Life is short and isn’t guaranteed, healthy or not, people get sick, and accidents happen. They are tragic and they suck and they leave everyone behind without getting to say goodbye, but they happen.
So, even in these annoying COVID times, try to remember that life is short (even if quarantine and changing government restrictions can sometimes make it feel really long) and to still try your best to make the most of it. While right now might not be the time to go on that big trip to Italy or to take a cruise around the world (ha), it is the right time to figure out what makes you happy and to think about how you could do more of that, whether it’s right now or when restrictions are lessened or lifted. It’s also the right time to put a little effort in to letting the people that you love know that you love them. That parent/sibling/aunt/grandma/whoever that you keep putting off calling back, would you miss them if they were gone? Okay, good, now go call them. Make the time. Life is short.
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