One of the hardest things in life is to go to the funeral of a person younger than you. But that is what I will be doing tomorrow afternoon.
Last weekend, my dear friend Pam dropped dead, suddenly and unexpectedly. From what we were told, she suffered an aneurism in her aorta, and collapsed while watching her ten-year-old daughter cheer at a football game.
I’ve known Pam for almost 20 years, although I typically only see her on summer weekends. Like me, she married into a family that had been living on Lake Beulah in Wisconsin for two generations. She married my husband’s long time friend Jeff, and we’d sometimes compare notes on what it was like to marry a sailor, what it was like to find our place in a community of people who had known each other almost their whole lives.
We have so many memories of boating, going to regattas, parties and times just hanging out together. Many summer weekends, we would often go boating with Jeff and Pam. This summer, we loaded up our kids onto their pontoon boat and took them to the high dive at the far end of the lake, and laughed as we watched them jump and play in the water.
The community up at the lake is tight-knit—even though we really don’t see each other during the winter. But in the summers, we share the bond of sailing, and enjoying the lake together.
I am still in shock—not really believing that she’s gone. How can a healthy forty-year-old mother of three just die, with no warning? Every day since I heard the news, I have looked at my family in a new way. The little things that once annoyed me no longer seem to bug me. I hug them, tell them I love them, look at them. It’s easy to go through life without ever looking at the people around you—they become part of the landscape. They’re there, but you don’t notice. If there’s anything that will make you live mindfully, it’s death. While I want to get over my grief, I don’t want to get over the way that my grief has made me value my loved ones so deeply. I want to hang on to this awareness, that life is a delicate gift.
Life is precious, and it can change in an instant. Don’t miss it. Love extravagantly. Forgive generously. Speak kindly. Pay attention, for God’s sake.