In the Living Years

“She’s gone! … She’s gone, baby! … She’s gone!” Lisa sobbed uncontrollably lying face down on the floor of our living room.  I quickly closed the front door behind me and threw myself onto the floor beside her. We wept together for what seemed like hours.

Just minutes earlier, I had instructed her to call 911 when a family friend who was scheduled to take her mother to the airport stood outside her home calling her phone while knocking loudly and repeatedly ringing the doorbell; all with no response.

Lisa, too, had been trying to call her mother throughout the morning, as well as multiple attempts the night before, hoping to confirm her arrival time in Norfolk where we were scheduled to pick her up at the airport later that morning. Her anxiety and sense of dread had been growing each time her mother didn’t answer her phone.

Moments before I arrived at our house, Lisa received news that the police had found her mother lying peacefully in her own bed. She had passed in her sleep. The exact time and date of her death was uncertain although she and Lisa had talked only a few days earlier.

The days and weeks that followed were heavy, leaving all of us having to consciously remind ourselves to take the next breath. Although extremely difficult and shrouded with a blanket of deep sadness, we experienced the comforting grace and presence that embraces all souls who grieve. We stumbled half-conscious through the clouded chaos of making funeral arrangements and dealing with the practical and emotional aftermath that followed.

Then, just three months later, I received another call. This time it was from my sister. “Mama’s gone, Timmy.” My sister sobbed quietly as I stood holding the phone to my ear. I quickly rushed to another room to hide the sudden and all-to-familiar wave of grief that swept over me.

Unlike my mother-in-law’s passing, my own mother’s death was not unexpected. I had just returned from visiting her in Arkansas a few days earlier, knowing that the end of her life was near. I am thankful for the few lucid days we had together. Brief but sacred opportunities to say goodbye and remind each other again of how much we loved one another.

I am back now from my second funeral in three months. Saying goodbye to my two mothers and allowing them to pass into whatever reality exists when our bodies can no longer hold us in this world. I am thankful for my faith which carries with it the joyful expectation of being reunited with my loved ones when my own time comes to lay down this mortal body.

I must admit I am surprised by how these events have opened my heart. I feel like I am more open to giving and receiving love in my life than I’ve ever been before. I am more willing to open my heart to others, to listen to their stories and allow myself to really see them and feel their pain as well as their joys.

My mother had asked that the song, In the Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics, be played at her funeral. The song is about telling the people you love what they mean to you while they’re still alive. For all of us, there comes a time when we won’t be able to do this anymore.

So, I’d like to ask you for a favor.

I’d like to ask you to pick up the phone and call someone you love and remind them that you love them.

You could also go to their house, write them an email or send up a smoke signal. The important thing is to just do it.

It won’t take long.

But the benefits can—and will—last a lifetime (and beyond).

It’s never too early. But a time will come when it’s too late.

Tell them now. In the living years.