What death teaches us about life

Yesterday Michael and I attended the memorial service of a good friend's dad who died suddenly while helping a neighbor with a project at his home.  The service was moving and sad and inspiring all at the same time.  Of course his family and his loved ones are reeling from their unexpected loss.  As I wrote about last week, there's nothing more painful than losing someone you love.

As difficult as a memorial service or funeral may be, there's always the gift of being reminded of what really matters -- the connection we share with one another.  During the service I was struck by a few things.  First, there were sides of this man that some of us knew nothing about.  He was a generous soul who volunteered his time in prisons and at drug rehab centers, he helped build homes for Habitat for Humanity, and he was always ready to lend a hand to anyone in need.  As I listened to his son (and our friend), Jonathan, talk about his father's legacy, I thought about my own dad.  A week earlier, my parents had visited, and as I spent time talking with my dad about the early years of his life, I was amazed to discover things about him I never knew.  I thought to myself, "There's a deep well of experience and wisdom inside this man and I want to know more."  Imagine what you may not know about the loved ones in your life.

Jonathan's dad gave his grandchildren the greatest gift any grandparent could give -- the gift of his time.  At one point during the service, several grandchildren got up to read pieces they had written about their grandpa.  It was heartbreaking and telling.  While a couple of children shared memories of receiving a favorite toy or being taken for an ice cream, what mattered most was the amount of quality time their grandpa shared with them.  He took them for walks in the woods, sang songs with them while driving in the car, and took them to the beach to search for treasures along the shore.  Not one child said that he or she would miss the ice cream or toys.  They wanted more time with him.  I left thinking about who I'd want more time with if they were suddenly gone.

I didn't know our friend Jonathan's father very well, but by the end of the memorial service I wished I had.  And that's the point.  Saying goodbye to someone is the wrong time to wish you'd spent more time with them.  "Right now" is all we have to share with one another.  As much as I hate the sorrow that comes with saying goodbye, I feel grateful for the gift -- the reminder to spend quality time with those who matter most. 

I share this gift with you today...    

Take Action Challenge

Stop for a moment and think about who you'd regret not spending time with if he or she were suddenly gone.  Then, pick up the phone and set a date to talk, to visit, or to spend some good quality time together. 



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Cheryl Richardson

Cheryl Richardson is the author of The New York Times bestselling books, Take Time for Your Life, Life Makeovers, Stand Up for Your Life, The Unmistakable Touch of Grace and her new book The Art of Extreme Self Care. She was the first president of the International Coach Federation and holds one of their first Master Certified Coach credentials.

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