In the last month and a half, I have had a number of friends and loved ones pass away. I am always saddened of course, because losing someone means a part of you no longer exists in your living life. But more often than not, I am motivated and inspired to reflect on the following thoughts: Am I living a life that I love? Am I living to my fullest potential? Am I spending my time the way I want to spend my time and not spending it in a way that is expected of me or as a result of guilt? These thoughts help me to make sense of the loss and to find new meaning in what I believe life is all about.
One such loss was the passing of my good friends’ mom, Mrs. Lam. She was a firecracker and definitely loved living life to the fullest. I had the honor of sharing the fond memories of her that everyone had written down for me to read during Mrs. Lams’ service. And while at the time, I was touched by all the warm and loving words expressed in honor of Mrs. Lam, I look back now and wished I had shared my own thoughts with her before she passed…because that is what she would have wanted.
Mrs. Lam had shared with both me and her daughter, Carolina, her thoughts on funerals when we had attended a funeral together a few years back. She sat with us as we waited for the reception line to go down and shook her head, she spoke in Spanish to Carolina and I looked at both of them with questioning eyes, “What?”
Carolina smiled and said, “My mom said, look at all these people who came out to honor this woman. I wonder how many of these people spent time with her when she was alive, when she was sick, when she needed these people around. She continued speaking to both of us in Spanish while Carolina simultaneously translated, “Spend time with me and celebrate me when I am alive. Let me enjoy the festivities and your company when I am alive – not when I am dead. That’s why I don’t want a big funeral. I don’t want all the fuss when I am dead…I want to experience celebrations when I am alive.”
While I am grateful that I was able to celebrate Mrs. Lam when she last visited Oahu back in October, I do wish I had shared with her what a value she was to me when I sat with her in the hospital back in November. I wish I had told her how much I valued her honesty and her appreciation for me as a friend of the family. I wish I had thanked her for all the times she scolded me to be a better person and the times she welcomed me into her home as if I was actually part of her family. But like other instances where I have left a friends’ bedside, I always think there will be time and there will be another opportunity on my next visit. I was back on the Big Island in December, but by that point, Mrs. Lam was gone.
We all experience the loss of a loved one differently. But in honor of Mrs. Lam’s legacy, I have vowed to do my best to say any loving thoughts of appreciation, admiration, or love that I have to those close to me or ones to whom I want to become close to, in the present moment and not wait for the next time. I don’t take this commitment lightly, as disclosing a vulnerable self has always been a challenge for me. As I make this commitment to express loving thoughts to those who uplift me; in turn, I am committed to show this same love to myself. Mrs. Lam never did anything she didn’t want to do and did so with no apologies; she enjoyed any opportunity to holo holo around town or to travel abroad; and she always celebrated BIG – she loved a good party. I believe Mrs. Lam was my spirit animal, but I often had a tinge of guilt that hindered me from fully enjoying being who I am, to be out and about, or enjoying a good party – especially my birthday because of guilt of feeling a little self-indulgent. No more. Life is short as the saying goes. But in times of loss, I am reminded of this notion even more so. We need to enjoy, celebrate daily, and live the life we love.
If you’ve ever experienced a loss, feel the sadness of missing the being in your life; honor their soul by taking the part of them you will miss the most and keep that spirit moving forward, as I plan to with Mrs. Lam. In this way, our loved ones will always be alive.