I received an email last week from Sarah. She’s a mom with a chronic illness. At some point in the future, she will need a liver transplant. If she doesn’t get one, she won’t make it.
In the correspondence, Sarah told me she was trying to live each day to the fullest. She shared that she was beginning to preserve her thoughts for her husband and daughter – just in case. She then asked me if there were things I would suggest she do now in the event she isn’t around ten years from now.
It made me stop and think.
As I pondered my response, I put some thoughts together on what I’d do differently had I known ten years in advance that Lisa would die.
It sounds like you are approaching your life in a strong and courageous way. Of course, our situation was dire from the start, but I can’t tell you how inspiring it was for our family to watch my wife fight with a positive attitude. She never felt sorry for herself (at least outwardly), and she kept hope until the bitter end. Her strength and optimism made it so much easier for us. She didn’t spend the last six months of her life crying. She laughed and lived, what a blessing for us.
You have tons of time! Enjoy each minute – and when you live to be 90, you will have maximized every minute which most of us don’t do.
I think that we did some things very well. Our memories of Lisa, our ability to talk about her with humor and warmth are all wonderful. The girls and I laugh about her often. There are, however, a couple of things I would have changed had I known she would die so young.
1) I would have taken more pictures. Lisa was our family photographer so we have plenty of family photos but just not that many of her. I wish I had great snapshots of Lisa with each of the girls. I wish we would have captured her expressions, the ones I can’t see anymore. Occasionally I find a pic tucked away somewhere. But there aren’t enough. There aren’t close ups. She hated close ups of herself.
Sometimes I want to see that face – and my memory only captures a bit of what we shared.
I work hard now to capture those casual moments with the girls and me. They will have plenty of photos of me and I’ll have pictures of them that will be with us for life.
2) The last weekend my wife lived, she scratched short notes to each of the girls. She was so sick at the time I had to do some of the writing for her – she would talk, I would scribe.
I wish she had done more writing or video taping to share what she wished for the kids. I’ve heard of moms who died who left notes for their kids to be read on special occasions. We don’t have that. We can just imagine what she might have said. That may not be something you need to do now, but in the future you may want to consider leaving a written legacy for your kids.
3) Finally, for me, there have been hundreds of times that I wish I had known more about what she would have done in various situations. How would she have dealt with dating, prom, hurt feelings by the “mean girls,” buying expensive shoes, when to allow my teenager to drive out-of-town by herself. I wish we would have talked more about heaven and what she, what we, believed. I knew, but not enough.
You’re on the right track. I don’t have regrets of how we dealt with her death. I just wish we would have focused more on our marriage, taken advantage of opportunities to travel as a couple or a family, realized that the afternoons we drank a beer on the beach were special and not something that would come to an abrupt end. I wish we would have made more fires in our outdoor fireplace, maybe held hands more often. I do miss her hands.
I think everyone should do a better job of thinking about life as if it was precious and not going to be here forever. If we’d all do that, we’d all be a lot happier in the long run.