This question, inspired by the musical “Hamilton,” would have had little meaning to me last week. But today is a different story. As I write this, I’m in transit to Sarasota, Florida to attend a dear friend’s funeral. And this question, “who will tell your story?” resonates deep in my soul.
At some point in our lives, each and every one of use will face the reality that our journey on this earth will come to an end. When this time comes, the hope is that we pass in a painless and peaceful manner. However for some the end journey may be sudden and unexpected, while for others it may involve a physical battle that challenges both the body and mind. No matter how your final days are spent, the question I ask is when you look back on the life you have led, will you smile with the knowledge that you have lived your life to the fullest extent with no regrets? Or, have you moved on from those regrets as the decisions made were for the better good? Will you have unfinished business with yourself or others or will you be comforted that you have allowed your authentic self guide your way? Will you remember that your worth is not measured solely by your accomplishments as in your position of power, wealth, personal and physical possessions and/or accomplishments, but rather in the manner in which you presented yourself and treated those around you?
No one has the answer to the question, “when will my day come?” Yet each and every one of us can make the choice to be mindful of our existence today and focus on living our lives as if tomorrow may never come. While it may sound cliché, don’t put off today what you can do tomorrow. Be mindful of your place in this world and those who are traveling this journey by your side or with you in spirit. Take the time to enjoy the world around you, remember to breathe and exhale, remember to love and allow yourself to be loved and, most importantly, make all attempts to be authentic and genuine to those with whom your path crosses, especially the ones you hold near and dear.
A wise friend once told me that I needed to be open with my thoughts, feelings and needs. Being genuine and honest was the only way they would know what I needed. They provided me with the proper support rather than me focusing on anticipating their need or response. While this is not always easy, especially for those of us who are givers, it is a requirement to ensure that if tomorrow never comes what was most important would have been said today.
In the final hours of my friend’s life I was touched and amazed at the overwhelming support for his well-being as observed on social media. It was after his passing when I truly realized how much this man had done for the good of others and how loved and respected he was. While in life I knew him as a friend and considered him to be my family, I had no idea the significance of his mark of this world. His kind spirit, honesty and willingness to help his fellow man or woman has become more and more evident as friends, family, colleagues and strangers post their memories, tributes and words of support on social media. They are telling his story and ensuring that he will never be forgotten. In closing, I ask that those of you reading this reflect on this question, “Who will tell your story?” Your story is composed in the manner in which you live your life on a daily basis and will be reflected in the final answer.
On Friday, April 6, 2018, a parent’s worst nightmare became a tragic reality after a bus crash involving Saskatchewan’s Humboldt Bronco’s hockey team claimed the lives of now 16 people. An entire nation mourns and shares in the grief along with family, friends, teammates and the community of Humboldt.
In my reflection on this great loss, it continues to come to my attention that death is often a topic we shy away from discussing despite it being a fact of life, until of course, death becomes a reality to us personally. While I understand it can be difficult to talk about, I feel it is important in this moment of loss, to openly discuss our individual feelings, reactions and fears. In doing so, we help provide support and aid in the healing process. As there is no right or wrong way to grieve, nor are there any timelines or rules on how to provide support, many of us do not even know where to begin and that is where I would like to offer some thoughts for your consideration.
Grief is a very personal experience, and belongs entirely to the grieving person. The process is intensely personal and private time can be very important. Grief never really stops; it is something you carry with you in different ways every day of your life. You as a friend or loved one have a supporting role in providing comfort to the one in need, and as such, follow his or her lead. When someone close to you is grieving, it is important to stay present and state the truth. Do not try to fix the unfixable. Be willing to witness unbearable pain. Anticipate, don’t ask. Do not say, “call me if you need me” because your friend will not call. Not because they don’t need you, but because identifying a need, figuring out who might fill that need, and making a phone call is beyond their energy level. Thus, help with normal life requirements.
Most importantly, show your love by your willingness to stand beside the gaping hole that has opened in their life. Be willing to have no answers. Be willing to listen. Be patient. Show your love, as love is what lasts.
In the light of the Humboldt tragedy, in keeping with the words of Tim McGraw, “tomorrow was a gift and you’ve got eternity to think about what you would do with it.” Living one day as if it could be your last is the ultimate tribute to the young souls lost in this tragedy, as well as the lives that are lost every day through tragedy, illness, or this gift we call life.
Dr. Diana Garcia
Dr. Diana Garcia has over 20 years of experience in the field of psychology. She has provided psychological and counseling services in Ontario, and the states of Pennsylvania, and Florida