Loss reminds us to treasure what we have now

Published 9:30 am Saturday, July 9, 2022

In recent weeks, we have mourned the untimely and unexpected passing of several friends and the tragic car crash resulting in the death of a very dear friend’s granddaughter. 

It has been overwhelming.  And very difficult to come to terms with the fact that all we have left are the memories of these individuals and most certainly we will treasure these memories forever in our hearts.  Each of them in their own way touched us deeply and we will forever be reminded of what they meant to us, to their families, friends, and colleagues.  We probably cannot fully know and appreciate their impact on the world nor truly what might have been had their lives continued.  

It is said that when you know what death is, you will truly know what life is.  Sounds strange, doesn’t it?  That death can be life affirming.  But when I think of my reaction to the deaths of those I hold dear, I truly absorbed more of Mother Earth’s offerings—the sunrise/sunset, blue skies/stormy skies, the noisiness of Nature, my home, my family, my friends.  I wanted to bring my circle closer, hug them tighter, love them more and be sure to tell them that I love them—repeatedly!  That’s one thing I find easier to do.  To tell those I care for that I love them.  Three simple, single-syllable words:  I love you.  Yet those three words carry so much meaning and are so powerful.  The phrase carries with it fondness, unwavering acceptance, commitment, approval, protectiveness, and enduring affection.  How life affirming!

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Love is a strong bond and frankly, we all need more of this connection.  The Bible tells us that we should love our neighbors as ourselves, love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  Now that’s a pretty tall order.  Yet, how many times have you seen family members of these mass shootings declare their forgiveness and commit their prayers to the offender?  

When Tom’s Uncle George passed away, he had the responsibility of seeing to Uncle George’s final affairs.  In going through his belongings, we discovered that he had received numerous citations and decorations for his service in World War II, including the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon with 3 Bronze Stars and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with 2 Bronze Stars.  We never knew all this, nor did his extended family.  A quiet man who lived his life with a kind, humble heart.  Which brings me to his obituary.  We wanted to honor his legacy by telling his story of service and distinction through his obituary.  How can we paint the picture of a live well-lived in just a few paragraphs?  What will your paragraphs contain?

Death is so final.  That’s hard to accept.  There are no extensions, do-overs, reversals.  There’s just “if only—maybe if I—or I wish.”  And those reflections and wishes will not ever be realized.   Most of us do not know how or when we will depart this earth.  Perhaps your departure will be due to illness, age, accident, crime.  Again, it’s the finality and the regrets that haunt us after a loved one passes. What I hope to pass along and what I hope to practice, is to not take anyone or anything for granted.  Life is fleeting, yet we don’t realize that until death reminds us.  I’m reminded of Oliver Burkeman’s book “Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals” which points out that if you live to be 80, you have just over 4,000 weeks on this earth.  So, be mindful how you spend your weeks.  And be sure to say those three little words often.  


Bonnie Brown writes a weekly column for The Oxford Eagle. Email her a bbrown@olemiss.edu.