“Until death do we part” is etched in my mind as a popular wedding vow. Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about how death or tragedy brings people together. The sharing of loss, grief and compassion has family members dropping the things that would normally keep them too busy to connect so that they can show up to support one another. The deeper question I have is why do we wait? Why does it take a tragedy to put the first things first in our lives, which—for most people—are relationships?
Even a minor shift in a relationship piques my interest in this subject. I recently heard news of a talented businessman leaving our community and felt an urgent need to connect with him. I wanted to ensure that our relationship doesn’t end. He’s valuable to me. I feel I have as much to offer him as he has to offer me. “Why did I wait?” I asked myself.
If you took your last breath upon retiring to bed tonight, would it all be said? Would those you love and care about know how you feel? Would the strained relationships in your life become resolved? More importantly, would you feel complete with those who really matter to you?
My partner Matt received a phone call about a month ago with sad news of his step-father’s passing. Matt’s mom had left his stepfather at home while she ran a daily errand, only to come home 45 minutes later to find him laying on the floor. He had passed away very suddenly and with no warning. Matt spent a few hours with his mom and the body of his stepdad before the coroner took him away. It was in those moments that Matt was able to say a few things that he’d been wanting to say for many years.
When we see someone, we never know if it will be for the last time; yet if we think about how we’d leave things with that person—just in case it is the last time—we’d respond and communicate from a deeper place of love and acceptance instead of judgment and criticism. It’s not just the person we’re losing that we connect with in a time of tragedy. We rekindle, resolve and reconnect with other members of our family or community with whom we’ve grown apart from because we realize that the human needs of support and compassion that we can give far outweigh our own selfish battles of ego, being right, being accepted, or being treated a certain way. Why don’t we just default to love, support and compassion?
Things that matter most shouldn’t be at the mercy of things that matter least. In the end, relationships matter most, so why wait? We’re not too busy when there is a tragedy to drop everything and go to support the people that matter, so why don’t we make time to nurture the needs of relationships that matter even in the absence of tragedy?