I had some bad news this past week that has really been on my mind and in my heart for days now. Something that brought back a lot of memories, and a lot of important lessons, for me.
It may be an odd thing to say, but at times there are things that I actually miss about those first few years after Drew’s death. As painful and horrible as that time was, I can’t deny that there were certain gifts that I suppose I always knew would be short-lived. The main one being a perspective shift.
I remember living so vividly those first few years. I remember being so without fear, and so without concern for all the mundane things in life. I was so raw, and essentially giving a big “fuck you” to life by decreeing to live more fully. So it was an odd time - a time of terrible gifts. A time of painful joys.
For someone who has spent a lifetime walling off from people and bogged down by the smallest fears and the biggest self doubts, it felt like a miracle to be leaping over those walls and reaching out to connect with other hearts going through what I was going through. Breaking is breaking open, as they say, and that was certainly true for me.
As I “re-enter” a more normal day to day life now, I can see my perspectives sliding back. I can see myself worrying once more about the small stuff. I can see my self doubt closing in around me more than before. But that perspective his death gave me hasn’t left entirely. It still resides in my heart. Even if often times being back in the day-to-day takes up more of me mind, I can still hear those lessons I learned about having no control, about letting go of fear and worry, about opening my heart more fully to the world.
This week gave me a swift kick into remembering all of those lessons when I got a text from an old friend back in Texas. She said that one of our other friends had died, the day before. While I don’t know for certain the details, it sounds as though he may have taken his own life. And just like that, with a simple text, everything felt different.
While I wasn’t ever close to this person, he certainly had an impact on me during the broken years of my own life. He was my personal trainer at the gym, and became my Crossfit coach soon after that. And what he will never know is that during that fragile time in my own life, he was a voice of strength. He was the one I showed up to each week to help me feel strong when I felt weak. He was the one who would text me and make sure I wasn’t going to flake out on showing up for myself. He was someone who pushed me to be a better version of myself, and to do things I’d never thought I could do. He had a beautiful gift for doing this, and a beautiful heart, but also seems he battled some terrible demons.
I have thought of him on and off all week long. I have thought of his mother, who is enduring this nightmare. At the very moment I got the news actually, I was working on a few dozen custom-painted journals for a client. These journals were for a mother’s retreat… for moms who have lost children.
So there I am, painting the words “Love on” onto these beautiful journals for grieving mothers… feeling such pain in my heart for a new grieving mother back in Texas. I was overcome with emotion enough to have to stop and cry several times that day… and ever since, I have the reminder in my own heart that Drew’s death gave me too. The reminder that the light of a soul was just lost from this earth. A young soul too… he was barely over 20, this kid. His light will never be here again. When each of us leaves, it is like this. When our own light goes out, it cannot ever be replaced in the framework of things by any other light. I found myself so deeply affected by this feeling… almost as if we are all one big, connected, soul, and now another piece of it just separated to go back home.
It’s reminded me of those lessons that Drew’s death first gave me with agonizing clarity. We only get one chance to light this world up with our souls. We only get one chance to touch people’s lives and make an impression here. And we don’t even know how long we’ll be here. I have no clue if I will live to be 100 or just a few more years. His death reminded me acutely of that.
I’m sure this kid had no idea the kind of positive affect he had on me. I’m sure he was so busy worrying about the big and little things of his life, that he had no clue just how bright his spirit shined when he was helping others at the gym. Surely that’s how most of us live - not even realizing just how brightly our light shines in the moments that we are of service to others.
He’s reminded me in a way I really needed, not to worry about the small stuff so much. To take care of things, but not to be so concerned with them. To trust however things will all unfold. To not have to have every damn little thing all in order (I know for one, Mike will appreciate this!) To spend more time focusing on love… on being love, giving love, and receiving love. To keep my heart open, and to seek out the hearts of others that are open too.
The best way we can hold space in our hearts for anyone we have lost is this… Living our own lives better because they crossed our path. Putting more love into the world, shining our own light more brightly, to say that their life was important. To say that their life will continue on in how we live our own.