I think as I’ve grown older and experienced more of life, I’ve become more aware of the truth behind these words.
I can think of times I haven’t really appreciated the value of the encounter or situation until days, weeks, in fact sometimes years later. Times when I didn’t truly appreciate the time I had with people that mattered to me. It’s as if the encounters were a gift that I now value but didn’t at the time. So there’s now a sense of sorrow and grief – not only are some of those people no longer here on earth, but I see the preciousness of opportunities that won’t occur again. Dynamics that have changed. Children who are now well into adulthood with children of their own. Friends who have come and gone, whose faces I don’t expect to see again. Things I willingly gave up at the time, only to realise that years later I mourn their loss.
It seems crazy now, but hindsight is like that. Unmet expectations can cause such pain. It’s as if some precious jewellery has been stolen and I wept at its loss, only to realise it wasn’t stolen at all. In a moment of madness I gave it all away. The loss was totally my own doing.
So reminder to self is to appreciate the good things, the good people, the opportunities that are before me right now, so that in coming weeks, months or years I can enjoy not just the memories made but also the knowledge that I didn’t waste a precious drop of life; I made the most the opportunities and experiences available to me.
These past couple of weeks I’ve been working through some stuff. I discovered that a friend had died last year; then I discovered that he’d committed suicide; then my husband’s brother’s best friend died last weekend (had a heart condition and didn’t wake up); was talking to a friend at work and she was telling me about 2 friends of hers, brothers of 17 and 19 that were in hospital after a car accident (they’d hit a tree) so I thought speed was involved and wondered if alcohol and/or drugs had also had an impact – well speed was certainly a factor it turned out. She told me this on Tuesday morning – both brothers in critical condition with the elder brother (the driver) not expected to live. That night he died – she came to work the next day and was a mess. She’s only 19 herself and I guess this is the first friend of her age who’s died. She went home and cried for several days. On Thursday evening I caught up with an old friend, we’d been drinking buddies from way back, and he shared with me about how tough this year has been for him. He lives on his own in a neighbourhood where I also lived alone (before I met my husband) and we are pretty honest with each other. He was telling me about how depressed he’s been this year, about a boss who bullied him, about drinking most nights, not looking after himself, not taking his drugs, not doing any housework…
And I’ve been thinking – Graham died and I didn’t know. Phil is depressed and I DO know. I could help – or at least provide a helping hand. And if that means he has less reason or inclination to commit suicide, then it’s worth the effort.
For the past 4 – 5 months my house has not been really clean. I started the gardening business and was too tired to clean after I’d gardened (or – I didn’t care enough to do housework when I got home after gardening) – so my husband did the washing and tidied the kitchen most days. I haven’t done much in the way of housework for months.
Mid June my doctor said said he thought I might have had a TIA (mini-stroke) and initiated some tests at our local hospital and advised me I wasn’t to drive for the next 30 days. Thus postponing may gardening (that I drove to) and imposing a 4 week rest period. All in all not a bad thing as I had already decided I had been working too hard. I took a break from gardening – which was good for my body. Being a girl who likes to achieve things, I started making cot quilts instead (which I do during the winter sometimes) and managed to make about 6 cot quilts that I am planning to give away to needy families (through Women’s Refuge or church groups or similar – as long as they are not sold, and end up with families in need).
Now here I am, feeling like I really should return to gardening – and thinking about the deaths of people I know, thinking about suicide and my own encounters in the past – and not wanting anyone I know to have to experience the same despair and horrible desperation that I’ve felt in the past…
This morning I started cleaning my home – just a few rooms – the bathroom, toilet and my bedroom – a mini-spring clean. It was a start. It was an effort that I hadn’t made for a long time but it was enough. A step in the right direction.
And I’ve been thinking about my friend Phil’s house – about offering to help him make things clean and tidy again. I know what it’s like to live on your own, to feel depressed, to feel like you don’t really matter in many people’s lives, to use alcohol as a way of numbing the pain… and I want to help him because it’s a little something that I can do for someone that’s not me. It’s a way to provide support and encouragement to someone else, a way of giving to another, of supporting another, of being their for someone else.
And (as I stated earlier) if this means Phil has less inclination to end his life, or has more motivation to … do anything (cook, clean, garden – anything) then maybe that’s worth it.
I want to believe I had an opportunity and I took it – for all the right reasons – regardless of the outcome. I tried. I cared. I did something….
Then maybe that’s enough.
I’m not responsible for Phil’s decisions, his choices, his outlook – but if I can be a friend in the best way I know how, then maybe that’s enough.
And if it’s not enough, then I will know that I tried. I did something. I tried to make his life just that little bit easier when he was depressed and not motivated because I’ve known that depression and lack of motivation.
I want to know that I tried. If nothing else, I tried. I tried to be the friend that he needed me to be; the friend that listened and didn’t judge; the friend that was there and tried to make life just a little easier. The friend that cared enough to do something… because if nothing else, she cared.
I didn’t know you well.
But maybe next time I will make that effort.
Except I didn’t know.
I’m not good at people stuff, or rather I’m not always sure where to draw the line and then I realise I’ve let the colours become blurred and I don’t know how to get them back.
I didn’t know that we shared the same disease; the same dis-ease; the same sorrow; the same anguish; the same anything.
I keep thinking about you and wishing I’d reached out
Before you were more than a memory