I write this not for the dead, but for the living.
It seems lately that more and more people I love are losing the people they love. Death is inevitable. It’s a sad truth. My heart aches for them — my loved ones losing their loved ones, some of whom I also love. It’s one thing to live a long life. It’s another thing entirely to have one cut so short. It’s even worse when young children are left in the wake of their passing. I sometimes wonder what’s worse – losing a parent when you are a child, or losing a child when you are a parent.
A dear friend once wrote me, when someone I loved passed away: “In a way loss is a gift – it means they had something to give that will be missed. A small consolation and cruel irony, but a truth I believe. It’s in loss, we learn to live. Don’t despair my friend. Grieve. Then live better with the people gifted to live with you.”
I’ve always carried those words to heart.
Over ten years ago, I read the book “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”, by Mitch Albom. Like his other books, this one touched me. This particular dialogue especially still stays with me, the main character speaking to his wife.
She turned to him.
“You had to live without love for many years, didn’t you?”
Eddie said nothing.
“You felt that it was snatched away, that I left you too soon.”
He lowered himself slowly. Her lavender dress was spread before him.
“You did leave too soon,” he said.
“You were angry with me.”
Her eyes flashed.
“There was a reason to it all,” she said.
“What reason?” he said. “How could there be a reason? You died. You were forty-seven. You were the best person any of us knew, and you died and you lost everything. And I lost everything. I lost the only woman I ever loved.”
She took his hands. “No, you didn’t. I was right here. And you loved me anyway.
“Lost love is still love, Eddie. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken, another heighten. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.
“Life has to end,” she said. “Love doesn’t.”
The day before we were to leave Shillong, I happened to be talking to a friend we’d met in India just twelve days prior on the Rickshaw Run about my buddy Chris who was an inspiration to me. He and I worked together for a couple of years at Careerbuilder. My newfound friend had shared with us that he was diabetic, which is why I had brought up Chris. The Hammer, as Chris was affectionately nicknamed, had been a diabetic since he was seven years old, now in his early thirties with a beautiful wife and a beautiful baby boy. None of us ever knew that he was a diabetic the entire time we worked together. Quite frankly, I would only find out years later. My admiration for this man grew even more with his confession. His daily courage inspired me.
Later that day, I happened to notice that the post Chris had written on my blog about coming to terms with his diabetes was blowing up, which at the time I chalked it up to mere coincidence. I had other things on my mind. We had just completed a 3,000 km race from one side of India to the other.
I would find out the very next day, that Chris had passed away, not to diabetes but to a motorcycle accident. I was heartbroken, and immediately thought of his wife and baby boy. And I thought of the human dynamo that was The Hammer. He truly lived life. He lived it with love. Anyone who came in contact with him would know this immediately. And because of that, his zest and love for life became infectious. We were always laughing when we were around him, sometimes with him and other times admittedly at him, but he was so secure in himself that it didn’t bother him. His “Hammerisms” became famous in our group. He liked to see the people around him laugh. And we did. Lots.
And now I finally get to the point of this particular post. I write this not for the dead, but for the living. I came to an epiphany on my most recent birthday in a city located on the side of a mountain in India. Darjeeling has that effect on so many people, its citizens and its visitors. It’s known for tea and epiphanies. One of the things I wrote was, “Don’t wait to tell someone what and how much they mean to you. Treat every day as if today were their funeral. Why is it that we wait until someone’s funeral to have a gathering of loved ones to say nice, wonderful things of the departed? Why wait? Wouldn’t that be too late?”
So this post is really about Chris’ wife Amy. While Amy and Chris met when the three of us were on the same team, I met her a couple years before Chris; we started on the same day as sales reps at Careerbuilder. She had a quick smile and quick wit, but more importantly she had a great heart. While she had many great qualities, the two that always stood out was how kind and caring she was. We immediately became friends. She was someone who was always going out of her way to help people. I saw it over and over again. People of character shine in those moments that are the toughest. Amy was one of those people. In his post on my blog, Chris wrote this about her.
“It was MONTHS into our relationship when she finally confronted me. “You’re either addicted to heroin, or diabetic. I’ve seen the needles in your fridge and I know you’re not on drugs”. I came clean and prepared myself to be broken up with. Except, that didn’t happen. Instead, she asked me if there were some healthier meals she could learn how to cook. Or what was the best cocktail for a diabetic. In case you’re wondering, it’s vodka and soda water. Hardly any carbs in that good stuff. Well fast forward another 8 years and as I type this, that amazing woman is currently feeding my beautiful son his dinner while he watches videos on her iPad.”
A lesser person would have folded upon Chris’ revelation. That’s a tough deal. It was tough for Chris, and he showed a lot of courage sharing what he’d been going through, but at least he’d had almost a lifetime to come to grips with it. It was tougher in some ways for Amy cos she’d had no time to prepare for what could potentially be her reality for the rest of her life should she choose to be with Chris. She obviously chose to be with Chris. They loved each other. And that’s what people in love do. Amy was one of those people.
While Chris may not be in the land of the living, his love, her love – their love – won’t end just because he died. It lives in the stars, and in the hearts of all those who knew him. Amy and Jax are a testament to that.
“When true love is lost, life can bleed of all meaning. We are left blank. But the possibility of destiny remains. What we are meant for may yet be discovered. And once in a very long while that journey to find our destiny may defeat even time itself.” — from “A Winter’s Tale”
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ALWAYS BE EPIC.