Stranger Things

February 7, 2011 at 9:15 am | Posted in Friends | 19 Comments
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This week, I’m thinking about a man I barely know. A stranger, really.

He married a good friend of mine from high school. I met him at their wedding. I saw him at two Christmas parties. I attended the baby shower for their daughter. I can count on one hand the number of times we talked.

But I am living a different life because of him.

He was quiet. So is my friend. They were a solid match, perfectly comfortable with each other and perfectly reserved with everyone else. Their daughter is a spitfire, a gregarious, independent little girl with pigtails and a Dora obsession.

She’ll only know her father from photos.

Just before she was born, he was diagnosed with cancer. Two months after her first birthday, he was gone.

He was healthy. He was active. He was 35. People like that are not supposed to die from cancer. They’re supposed to push their daughters in swings at the playground and build dollhouses on Christmas Eve. Teach them to drive a car and drive a nail. Share apple slices and secrets. They’re supposed to be there.

But he’s not. I can’t understand it. And I can’t forget it.

In the two years since his death, he has taught me to cherish the moment. Because all too soon, I’ll be out of moments. We all will.

Sometimes, I desperately want to fast-forward my life: when the baby has been up all night and I wake in a delirious fog that never clears. When Lollipop and Giggles can’t make it through two minutes without screaming at each other. When my to-do list goes on for pages and I don’t have the energy to accomplish even one thing. When we’re out of milk. Again.

Fast-forward. To something quieter. Something calmer. Something easier. Something better.

Then I think of him. And what he would give to have one more moment. Just one more.

He wouldn’t care if it was a loud, messy, complicated, tired, desperate moment. He would be here. Holding his wife. Hugging his daughter. Living his life.

And he’s why I’m trying to live mine with purpose and gratitude. For chaos. For noise. For stress. For exhaustion. For now.

What lessons have you learned from a stranger? How do you cope with mortality? How do you remember to savor each moment?



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  1. I needed to remember that today. Life, in all it’s glorious messiness. What a gift.

  2. That was beautiful, Stacia. It reminds me of my colleague, Marie, who recently died of brain cancer. Also, Hubby’s cousin’s husband died two weeks ago in a snowmobile accident. He was only 35 years old, too. He was an outgoing, funny and loving husband and father. Like you, I had only met him a handful of times, but he was always friendly and easy to talk to. His wife is so beautiful and is being so strong. I think of her multiple times a day and think about how worse things could be when I’m having a hard time or a bad day.

    Thanks for this extra reminder to enjoy life and our time with our friends and family. We don’t know how long we’ll have.

  3. I have a friend, a mom to a son the same age as mine, and I don’t think she has much longer to live. The husband of someone I know also passed away quickly, leaving two young sons (and 2 older sons from a previous marriage).

    I think it’s right to savor each moment. It’s very hard for me to just shut up ad be quiet. To really appreciate life.

  4. Gorgeous post. We’ve all been there, wishing for a future that we think will be easier. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember how precious and perfect now really is.

  5. Such a touching, heartbreaking story, Stacia. I have to say that I’ve learned to embrace what I have and be grateful for each moment through my relationship with my sister. I didn’t get it growing up, but watching someone go for her goals and never let her health stand in her way has inspired me tremendously. She’ll never have children and may not be on Earth with me much longer, so I love my children double and try not to waste a second on pity, etc.

    While it’s tremendously sad to imagine a life cut short, the least we can do is live our lives in a way that honors those who left too soon. In doing that, you are inspiring all of us.

  6. I graduated nursing school at the very young age of twenty. I have seen more suffering and death in the past 16 years than I know what to do with. However, I consider it a blessing to have been a part of this unavoidable cycle of life with the patients and families. I have been able to ease the physical suffering of the dying, along with the emotional suffering of the ones left behind. And God has put me into their lives for a reason. I come away knowing that my life is very blessed indeed, and that each moment is one to be cherished.

    Thank you for sharing, Stacia!

  7. This is me. This is why I’m trying to line gratefully every day. Because I am guilty of sometimes just “growing” my children into something easier. Hurts to say that. Luckily I catch myself and I remember to do better. To live now and not tomorrow. To be grateful for my crazy, exhausting, stubborn, noisy, frustrating children just the way they are right now. x

  8. beautiful beautiful! and so true. So hard to live in the moment when it is stressful or painful. but at least there is a moment in which to live. carpe diem.

  9. Oh Stacia. I got lost in my tears reading this this post. Stories like this scare the sh*t out of me. It does teach me to the embrace the moment. I struggle with this everyday, but reminders like these, jolt me out of my mind. Thanks for sharing Stacia and sorry for the loss of your friend.

  10. My heart goes out to you – and to your friend and her daughter. When our lives are touched by these reminders of our own fragility, it certainly helps us focus on what is important. People. Compassion. Touching. Each day.

    I doubt you want to hear this – but that desire to fast forward, which I understand all too well? That “something quieter, something calmer, something easier” – with kids – in my experience, it doesn’t exist. You love them with your body and soul; the nature of the work and worry changes, but it doesn’t go away.

    In the blur of the fatigue and physicality of babies and little kids, it’s hard (if not impossible) to appreciate the moments – so you appreciate some of them. Those you can. I think that’s the best we can do. Let go of the unimportant and petty things. Not expect ridiculous things of ourselves, especially when we’re tired. And feel, really feel the good things that we have in each other.

  11. I suppose people like this are also my rock when I want to speed time up. These moments with our children–fighting or not–will always be treasured as they grow up and move further away from us.

  12. Every where I turn (and read) these past two weeks, I have found reminders to be grateful. Your beautiful post will be in my head tonight as I go to sleep and tomorrow as I start another day of “momming” it. Each time I place a sleeping (or almost sleeping) child of mine in bed, I say to myself and to God, “Thank you for my life exactly as it is.” I don’t always manage it, but I do try to be thankful for my life just as it is and to enjoy it just as it is.

  13. Fantastic post Stacia. I’m so grateful when I read posts like this. It’s so easy to forget how important each moment is…

  14. **sniffle** This was lovely. I needed the reminder today, as I’m trapped in a snowy house, 5 degree temps outside, and a very active 5-year old. I’m going to try to enjoy her.

  15. Well a huge tear just rolled down my face, for the sadness but truth of this. And for a keen understand of how easy it is to let our life go by in a haze of blur. But the roses, they smell good. We only need to be reminded. Thank you for sharing my friend.

  16. Thank you for the reminder. With my teenager, I sometimes feel trapped in a role that I’m not ready to own. Life is hard sometimes, but it is also so wonderful.

  17. Oh, how tragic and unfair. I’ve learned similar lessons from strangers, friends and family alike. A little cousin of mine lost her mother, my aunt, to cancer – and now her other mother has cancer, too. That sort of reminder of mortality just makes me scared and sad, and I don’t deal with it very well; I try to live it up, ignoring my fears rather than giving into them. Right now, I’m just not at peace with certain realities.

  18. I’ve had a few strangers pass through and it makes me feel more connected to those around me, to understand the frailty of life, to appreciate what I have. I don’t understand why these things happen. It’s really very sad.

  19. Mortality is terrifying to me. I try not to dwell, but I do. At night, when someone wakes up needing me and I tend to his/her needs I then return to my bed and lay awake paralyzing myself that it will all be over someday. That something will come crashing in to our home, our lives, our happiness. The messes are indeed messy. And messes reflect life.

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