Just as I started writing today’s blog post my phone started buzzing. They finally found him, but it was too late. He had passed away. This young man, who I did not have the pleasure of knowing very well, was kind of like a distant sibling. What we shared in common was our love and appreciation for our “second Mom” Tracie, a phenomenal woman who has a wide web of young people she has nurtured and mentored over the years. We were both proud members of that extended family.
The last time I saw him was several months ago in Philly. He showed me pictures of his daughter, telling me how much he loved her. We told stories and shared some laughs. He introduced me to his beautiful and equally sweet girlfriend. We all talked about the past, overcoming obstacles and planning for the future.
Originally, this post was going to be a reflection on my time volunteering in hospice. But I think the one, big, life transforming lesson I’ve learned, both from hospice work and from mourning the passing of friends and family members, is the same:
We all have the tendency to spend way too much of our precious time and energy on the wrong shit.
A lot of people ask me what kinds of things the dying talk about as they near the end. God? Heaven? Hell? In my experience, rarely.
My patients mostly talk about how much they adore their children and grandchildren. Their pets. How they love knitting, but can’t do it so much anymore because of arthritis. The time they accidentally drank moonshine. Family. Friends. Fun.
But also, lots of regret: the grudges held entirely too long, the friendships that could have been mended, the marriages that could have been saved, the fear that held them back from finding joy.
“I wish I had spent more time with my family.”
“I regret not making up with that friend.”
“I should have told my father I forgave him. Now it’s too late.”
As an atheist, I don’t know if anything waits for us on the other side of death’s door, but I do know that we have this moment, right now. Our time on this earth is finite. Sometimes we see the end approaching and sometimes we don’t. But either way, I hope we can all spend a little more time creating great memories, spending quality time with our family and friends, forgiving trespasses and loving each other fully, without fear.