It has been quite a week with respect to celebrities passing away: Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson in the last few days. I pray for their families, to whom these stars were “just” Ed, Farrah, and Michael, to whom their passing isn’t noteworthy because they were a celebrity, but because they were a parent, a sibling, and a child. As much as we may miss Michael’s music, their loved ones will miss something we never knew: the presence and essence of the person.
When someone dies, the memories and tears usually come. We remember what they meant to us, what we did with them and other things. There’s a hole that only they can fill.
My father has dealt with loss in his life: his father, his two younger siblings and his nephew. We have never been in Nigeria when these deaths have happened, and mourning from a distance, not being able to be there physically for family members, is not easy. But one thing my dad always says is that you have to make your time with your loved ones count while they are alive because that is when it matters. My dad has lived this philosophy fully his entire life, giving everything he can to support his family financially and emotionally. He has suffered for his complete investment in the lives of his two families: I don’t think his family or my mother, siblings and I are ever away from his thoughts. Instead, he spends his life showing us all that we are important to him, his number one priority. If he sees a job opportunity he thinks I’d enjoy, he passes it to me, same with a book or anything he thinks will benefit my life. He is like this for everyone in his family. He’s the middle child but he often has to take on a leadership role in his family, and certainly that of the peacemaker (perhaps that is the role of the middle child).
Some people go into bankruptcy arranging huge celebrations of life and thanksgivings for their loved ones that have passed, yet while the person was alive they wouldn’t give them money to buy food, or share what they have. I’ve seen this more often with parents and grandparents: when they were alive it was a chore to visit them, help them with things they are no longer able to do, yet when they pass you suddenly feel the need to party, invite your friends, feed and ply them with drinks, all in the name of mourning and celebrating the life of a loved one. That, in my dad’s opinion is ridiculous and a reversal of how we should spend our money and time after a loved one dies.
But it’s not only death that inspires this. What about when your mom wants you to teach her how to send an email and you roll your eyes and get frustrated because you see it as one hour of your life that will be wasted repeating instructions over again? Or your sister calls to make small talk when you’re watching your favourite show and you rush her off the phone? Or the times you’ve almost bitten your father’s head off for asking you to pour him a glass of water, yet if he were to be rushed to the hospital, you’d suddenly become the concerned daughter or son, moving heaven and earth to make sure he’s comfortable and well cared for? It’s great that your true feelings are revealed in scary times, but what about on a regular day?
Let’s all commit to make every day count when it comes to showing our loved ones how special they are to us. Help your mother in the kitchen even if you’re exhausted yourself. Give your father a call at work just to say hello. Give your sibling who’s always broke $20 for no reason at all, or help your sister with one of her tasks without waiting to be asked.
Life is short, and we hope that God grants us a long life. Since we don’t know how much time we do have, let us focus on making the most of our every day.
I’m feeling pretty thankful for the lives of my family and friends today. There are just too many reminders of how lucky we are to wake up yet again. Please think of my friends, sister and I as we leave for a weekend of camping in a few hours. Yes: I am Nigerian and I enjoy camping. My friend’s boyfriend made me laugh: he apparently told her that if he wanted to camp he’d move back to Cameroon!
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