I went to California over the winter holidays to spend time with my family and closest friends. It was a wonderful trip, though there was a great deal of sadness as well. There is a double edge to the razor-sharp sword of deeply loving people. And that is having to one day lose them.
My hero and my dear friend have both been grappling with their health and mortality. In December, my aunt Josephine- at 99 years old- became confined to a bed. John learned that he had stage 4 cancer.
Yet today, sitting a country away, it is not sadness that I feel. I feel at peace. Because I know that they both are so deeply aware of how much they mean to me and how much better my life is because of them.
How do they know that? Because I tell them. Constantly. I mail postcards from exotic places as well as from local coffee shops. I clip articles and send handwritten letters. I leave encouraging or funny voicemail messages. I write poems for and songs about them. I make unexpected visits.
Sometimes I think to myself that I don't have the time to keep up these rituals. But that isn't true. There is always time when we make the time. We all know what will bring joy to the people in our lives. We know the heart songs of those we love. All we have to do is sing them. What could be more important?
I wish you could know John and Josephine. I can't help but smile just thinking about them. John's certainty that the world's most important book would be its shortest: "Savor the moment. Take nothing for granted or too seriously. Accept yourself. Love others, be kind, and be happy." Josephine's refusal to surrender her positive spirit and empowered mind, even as her body surrenders to the ravages of age.
I wish you could meet them. But you don't need to. You have Johns and Josephines in your own lives. So go visit them. Go call them. Go write to them. Walk down the hall and give them a hug. Right now- let them know how much you love them, and how much they mean to you. Not just because you don't want to regret it when those moments are gone. But because it will make this moment- for both of you- so much more rich and precious.
Next week, I am traveling to California to celebrate John's recovery from a cancer-related surgery and the happy remission of the disease, as well as my aunt's 100th birthday with a big, bedside party. I couldn't be more excited to see them. Though getting on that plane isn't necessary. I am already and always there with them. And they know it.