Christian’s father lived a long and good life. He had four children, 13 grandchildren and was married for 53 years to a sweet loving woman. A couple of weeks ago, he pulled out his feeding tube and declared he was ready to die at the age of 80. His memorial service is tomorrow.
Two teens, a sophomore and a senior from Nevada City, recently had their lives cut short when an intoxicated 21 year-old young woman crossed the meridian on Highway 5 over Easter break and slammed into their car.
Minutes ago, I heard that a woman we know and love, beloved Lea Hume, was found dead after having gone missing while suffering from depression. Many family and friends are shocked.
And just last night, I coached a couple that just barely survived her leaving him for another man after 8 years together. They are breathing a sigh of relief at having re-discovered in the process how much they love each other and don’t want to be apart.
“All of our relationships are going to end – sometime, somehow. Either by separation, divorce, sickness, or death.”
The truth of that statement can be frightening. Or enlightening.
So many of us live life believing that death and illness will escape us, that our marriages will last no matter how mean-spirited or disconnected we are, and that conflicts and problems will miraculously fix themselves without work or effort. We continue on day after day, caught up in our computers and phones and TV’s, blind to the fact that life is short, today is all there is, and love is the only thing that matters.
None of us know how long we have. And the fact that all relationships and lives will end somehow, some time, can actually be a source of inspiration if we allow it to be.
A friend of mine, Evy MacDonald, was given 6 months to live with an ALS diagnosis. She described herself as a “bowl of jelly in a wheelchair”, when she made the decision to master unconditional love before she died.
She started with her own body. Everyday she sat naked in front of the mirror until she found something of her body to love and appreciate. It was hard at first. She started with hair and nails, and worked up to the more challenging areas.
Next she focused on the people in her life she needed to forgive. One by one, she reached out and offered apologies, asked for forgiveness, and forgave others for past grievances she had carried.
Her heart began to explode with love and, miraculously, her health began to improve. Within months, there was no sign of ALS, and it has not returned for the last 35 years. She is now a minister on the East Coast, making her life count with the people in her community.
Evy used her death sentence as an opportunity too shift her thinking, clean up her relationships, love herself and be a contribution to others.
You can do the same thing in your relationships, and preferably before you are forced by dramatic circumstances. Use the fact that your relationships will end someday to inspire you to appreciate what you have, to enjoy the moment, to reach out to one another in love, and to get help when you need it, so you don’t waste precious years feeling stuck and unhappy.
One couple I worked with recently finally reached out for help. Married for some 30 years, they came into my office and vulnerably shared how lonely they feel, how much they miss each other, and how frustrated they are at not being able to create connection with each other despite their frequent attempts.
In just an hour with my support, they dropped into their hearts and found the connection they have been longing for. They left with concrete tools for how to create love and closeness with each other, grateful for the chance to build a fresh new relationship together.
Christian and I use the fact that our time together is temporary (emboldened by our two-year long distance relationship and Christian’s father’s recent death) to continually appreciate the little things, like getting to wake up together every morning or share coffee and tea in the afternoons.
Christian’s limited mobility from a herniated disc these past several months have given rise to even deeper appreciations for health, sexuality vibrancy and the sharing of deep feelings – all of which have brought us closer to each other.
You can choose to let death be your empowering friend, nudging you to make the most of this life. You can let death guide your heart to make relationships and love your priority.
How would you be different if you knew your relationship was going to end? What would you do with your spouse? Your children? Your parents? Your best friend?
What would you do differently if you remembered life was short and you knew you deserved to be happy and to live a rich, full, empowering life? What risks would you take if this were your last week alive?
Who would you reach out to if you knew you might not have another chance? Who would you regret not saying, “I love you” to?
Ask these questions. Take the actions these questions inspire. Notice what shifts as you do. Use the inevitability of death and divorce and sickness and life struggles to crack open your heart, daring you to give, love and live just a little bit more!