Nearly three years ago, I received a call saying my very healthy 34-year-old sister was on the way to the hospital in cardiac arrest. My heart stopped momentarily. Hers never beat again. I got on the first plane home trying to reconcile how my organic loving, compost having, full of love, best mother ever, amazing big sister could get so sick over a course of a weekend that I would never be able to see her beautiful smile again.
That was my second significant confrontation with death. The first being my beloved gymnastics coach who passed unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm. These first two instances cemented my understanding of the unpredictability of death.
Over the course of the first half of 2019, I would have three more confrontations with death. Prostate cancer stole the life of my uncle, the father of my best friend. As I watched her, his primary caretaker, pour so much love, attention, resources, effort, and life into their fight, I learned how long-suffering death could be. On Mother’s Day, when I hit my second trimester, we had planned to share the news of an addition to our little family with family and friends. Instead, I shared the news of a miscarriage to my closest few so they would be able to hold me up as I worked to power through. This showed me that death has a morbid sense of humor. And as we buried my grandmother, the profound matriarch of our family, on the day after the second anniversary of my sister’s death, I reaffirmed what I already knew. Death gives ZERO (fill in the blank)!!!!
Death is a dream snatcher. A thief. A joy stealer. A sucker punch. It is the most rancid smell. It is indescribably foul, and though I could go on for eternity, I will just stop here.
One thing death does well is give you a perspective like no other. An appreciation that can only be forged by such hardships. Did I want to learn this lesson? HELL NO! I want to ball it up and return to sender, but death forced me to navigate life differently. Though I know it has changed me in less positive ways, I can also recognize my growth. I am better at not making mountains out of molehills. I am a stickler about protecting my energy. I have more clarity about what is truly important. I am more earnest about leaning into my gifts. I appreciate the still moments more than ever. I soak up time with loved ones. I am more thoughtful about the way my words or actions may impact others. I am less hesitant to fear failure. I am more cognizant of “the light” woven through my days.
What do you do when death follows you? You LIVE. You live in every single moment that God is giving you. You live in the laughter of children. You live in the delight and pains of motherhood, and partnership, and friendship and love. You live in the inside jokes of your closest friends. You live in the matching side eyes that you and a stranger give somebody. You live in your connections. You live in your passions. You live in your failures, your failed promises, your discouragement. The good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the hardship. You live in the exhaustion. You live in the joy. You live in it all because you, my friend, are still living.
***In loving memory of my forever muse and big sister, Tiffanni Lee-Fong***