Every once in a while, something slams into us without warning. On a hot summer night two years ago, it was the phone call, with my father-in-law on the other end of the line telling me that the love of my life was in a crash while flying, and he didn't make it. His death slammed into me like two planets colliding.
And then this week, on another hot summer night, I think Robin Williams' death slammed into all of us. I have been surprised by just how deeply this has affected me. I've found myself having the same reaction of disbelief as when my fiancé died. The same outcry from deep inside myself that "No. No. This cannot be real." I've cried multiple times, deep sobs, for the loss of this man who - despite having never even met me - had a huge impact on my life. I grew up with him, watching Mork & Mindy and later Mrs. Doubtfire just about every week. I watched The Birdcage religiously through college - one of my go-to movies whenever I needed a break from all the stress in life. I watched Hook countless times whenever I needed a good dose of wonder and a reminder that life is full of magic. In fact, just a few weeks ago I watched it for just that reason… I watched Robin's childlike eyes light up and it made me believe in wonder and beauty and magic again.
All of this has got me thinking… how many people's lives do we touch that we have no idea about?
How many people's lives do I touch by writing here each week? Or by sharing my artwork about grief and loss? Or by just being kind and a good listener? There are countless people who may never tell us that we touched their lives… but nonetheless we have. And I don't think we ever have a clue just how much impact we have on others by the choices we make and the ways we choose to live our lives and treat others. But this week, this one very special man reminded me of just that. His death reminded me not only of the impact he has had, but of the capacity we ALL have to impact each other, inspire each other, love each other, and make each other laugh. It reminded me that - when I feel most alone - I can think about the little ways I've touched people's lives and know that I probably touched twice as many as I could ever know. We all have. Somehow, it makes things feel less lonely. It makes my heart feel more open and warm.
I don't really know where I'm going with this post. I hadn't planned to write about this today… so I'm letting it take me along for the ride. There has been much to think about this week, but what I am thinking on right now is that one idea: We touch so many more lives than we know. Every single interaction we have is a chance to leave the other person better than we found them. Every. Single. One. To give them laughter they didn't have, comfort they need, most of all - to allow them to feel seen and noticed. We all want to be noticed.
The beautiful thing about being the giver is that it goes both ways. Every time you give to someone else - that love flows right back to you. A selfless act of love for another is one of the most healing and beautiful gifts you can ever give - to them and to yourself. Most especially in the midst of great loss.
It was death that woke me up to this two years ago, and keeps it in the forefront of my heart now. It is death that continues to remind me each day that every single interaction with another person matters… whether I've known them a decade or a day. It is death that reminds me that the way I live my life matters… and that I matter, probably far more than I will ever realize.