Monday, February 3, 2014

a minute for life and death

this post began more than a week ago as "a minute for dads" but, through my delay in writing it, has morphed into something a bit more.

you see, two weeks ago, two of my good friends lost their fathers (one dad was 90, the other was 75). and, i didn't know what to say to either of them (i still don't) to make them feel better-- because how can anything anyone says to you make it better? i was talking to my husband about how i wished i could do something but i couldn't think of anything right and how that made me feel worse (because i am a natural nurturer), and he said-- very well intentioned-- "you've been busy. i mean, life gets in the way."

"life gets in the way." 

i'm not sure what my external reaction was-- probably something along the lines of "that's no excuse"-- but it certainly gave me internal pause. it seems as if i had heard this sentence many, many times in the past two weeks. i think i had even said it myself, but on friday, i really stopped to think about it.

"what exactly does life get in the way of?

i mean, i know that the saying means something like
"the things we have to do to keep up with our every day living get in the way of the things we want to do but cannot seem to find (or make) time to actually do.
but does life actually get in the way-- or do we put it in the way as an excuse?

now, before you go thinking that i'm about to write one of those "live every minute as if it is your last" posts, i'm not. or at least, i'm not trying to. despite the name of this blog, this is not what i am trying to say. i'm more interested in preserving the minutes we live-- both the ordinary and the extraordinary. 

last Sunday (in the first minute of quiet i had all week), i had a mini-panic attack at the thought of losing my own dad. the busy-ness of my life was no longer in the way of my processing the news of the week, and my brain was working overtime: what was happening to all of the dads?! was mine next? these thoughts made me feel selfish, but they also made me feel scared.

in my humble opinion, i am incredibly blessed to have the best dad in the world, and i cannot imagine what life-- and the world-- would be like without him in it (i frequently have the same thoughts about my mom, too-- it's no secret, losing my parents is one of my deepest, darkest fears)

and then i realized, this is probably exactly how both of my friends feel. they now have to live in a world without their dads. and they have never had to do that before. it's something unfathomable until it becomes your reality. and although i have tried (for over a week now) i can't seem to properly articulate my thoughts because it makes no sense to me. i haven't lived it. i don't know. my mom knows. my husband knows. several other good friends know... and now two more friends are going to have to learn to live a new life without their dads. how are they going to do that? and how could i begin to help?

the deaths didn't stop there: this week,

  • one of my students (a fourth grader) lost her father (again with the dads!); 
  • my brother-in-law lost his grandmother (why is this one somewhat easier to process?); 
  • just yesterday, a co-worker suddenly lost her husband (again, i am at a loss).

bringing up the questions:

  • what do i say to my student when i see her wednesday? is it worse to bring it up? should i pretend i don't know? is that insulting? will she even be in school on wednesday? wednesday is audition day, so do i just give her a good part if she misses auditions?
  • what do you do at a funeral where you don't know the person? and why do you go? i went to my brother-in-law's grandmother's funeral, even though i didn't know her. i went to support the person i love. he's my family. this is what you do for your family. you show up. going is an act of support and encouragement-- and you don't have to have the"right words," you just show up. 
  • what do you say to your co-worker when you see her in the office? what is appropriate? what is enough? 

and i think the answer to all of my questions is this:
small kindnesses. 

  • a hug-- or a well meaning hand (on the shoulder) when a hug may be too much.
  • showing up to a funeral or wake or visitation (if you can)
  • sending a card or a text to let them know they are in your thoughts
  • giving them time to process without having to explain or justify


honoring their stories. (this is where i bring it back around, i hope)

what are the small stories you remember from those people that you have lost? those minutes-- both ordinary and extraordinary-- of life. take a moment. really fix them in your mind.

do you have them?


instead of talking about "life getting in the way" or using life as an excuse, let's put those minutes of life-- the minutes remember with our loved ones-- in the way of our mourning and our sadness and our life, for one minute, to honor their lives.

and maybe that will help.
just for one minute.


  1. <3 This is beautiful. Love to all your loved ones.

  2. I learned some similar lessons when Chuck's uncle passed away. I learned from his cousin is don't expect them the recover in a certain amount of time. She lost her dad, and people were sympathetic initially, but they got awkward when she was still depressed a year out. But you just have to remember that incomprehensibility you feel and realize that they are living it. And just continue those little acts. Very beautiful thoughts.

  3. Agreed. Beautiful thoughts on a not-so-beautiful subject.