We are in the process of a major home remodel. Stage one will be done this year. If all goes well, stage two will be done next year and then we can begin planning for a vacation home in Oregon. And while I also have a lot of excitement around these same things, I instantly got a pit in my stomach. I told him about the aching I had in my gut and what I believe to be the reasons why.
My dad was diagnosed with cancer one year after he retired, and then my mom one year after my dad passed away. Many years ago they purchased a lot of land in Chelan and worked tirelessly every free moment they had to build their dream home where one day they would retire. To know how hard they worked throughout the years to only enjoy the fruits of their labor for a short time makes me sad. The one counter thought that provides me comfort, is knowing that while they worked hard they also lived. They didn’t wait until they retired to enjoy life. Despite working long days Monday through Friday, every Saturday morning in the winter they packed our gear up into the school bus to ski Crystal Mountain. When it was time to vacation they loaded suitcases in the back of the station wagon and drove across three states to take us to Disneyland. Every summer they took us camping despite how much work and preparation it required. Eventually they began traveling the world. And when they passed away they had hundreds of people fill the pews of the church because of the rich and meaningful friendships they built over the years.
I am thankful they didn’t WAIT out their long days and weeks at work until the day they retired to live. I want to live life like that.
My husband and I spent our dinner talking how their death relates to the pit in my stomach when he excitedly discussed what awaited us three years from now. In that moment I could ascribe three things to that feeling.
- I feel an immense amount of pressure to feel happy and love my life in the current moment. I am no longer able to just put my head down, work and tell myself this will all be worth it one day in the future. Their death has made the little things carry so much more weight. If I spend my days not doing what I love it feels like a waste. I feel guilty napping and wasting a couple hours in the middle of the weekend. It sounds like a good motto in theory, but it also puts the day to day moments of life under a microscope.
- Relationships are critical. Friendships are important. I read that one of the top five regrets of people dying was, “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.” I have important people in my life that I haven’t seen in weeks/months. So when I miss lunch with a group of friends on Friday because I have a lot of work to do, it feels like a big letdown.
- The last one I mentioned feels pretty dark, and I know there are many people who will see it as fatalistic. However, I know I’m not alone because my siblings have said they have felt the same way as I do. For my entire life, until the day my dad took his last breath, I felt immune from true pain, suffering and loss. When my dad died and then my mom, this illusion was shattered. Now, sadly, it feels like it’s not a matter of IF something else will happen, it’s just a matter of when.
So when my husband said he can’t wait for three years from now, my parent’s life and dreams flashed before my eyes. I want to ensure I’m living life today and not for some day in the future. This is entirely up to me. I know this. Which leaves me to end this blog with the other four ways in which the dying wished they’d lived their life:
- I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
- I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I’d let myself be happier.
So now I need to pause. Take a deep breath. Acknowledge I can feel joy within every day of the week. Find the courage to explore what I need to make that happen. Be unafraid to advocate for myself if it’s not. Let myself find happiness today, so I can feel excited for the added goodness that awaits.