what they really mean. And then comes a moment when we come face to face with the reality of how short life really is, and how quickly it can end. And in that instant, we realise just how badly we have failed to make the most of it before it ended.
The transience of life was brought home to me last week when I attended the memorial service of a friend’s father, who had passed away suddenly in his late 60s, despite being in perfect health. And as I heard the moving tributes paid to him by his friends and family, I couldn’t help but think how much we take life for granted – right until the moment when it is rudely snatched away from us.
It is never easy to lose a parent. But that blow falls much harder when it lands on your solar plexus completely out of the blue. I know how that feels. In my early 20s, I awoke one morning to a phone call that told me that my father had passed away. I took a flight back home catatonic with shock. It had never occurred to me that my last conversation with him would, in fact, be my last conversation with him. How I wished then, clutching my grief to myself, that it had not been quite so banal. How I berated myself for not saying all the things that I would never again get to say.
That’s the thing with sudden loss. You never really get a chance to make peace with it. No matter how much people try to convince you that this was for the best, and that it was good that death didn’t come after a long and painful illness, it is hard to reconcile yourself to a bereavement that comes out of nowhere. However debilitating a long illness may be, and however unbearable it is to see someone you love suffer, it gives people the chance to get used to the idea that the end
will come, sooner or later. And in some sense, the shock of loss is blunted, if only slightly.
But when life ends in an instant, all that remains is regret for all the stuff that you did not get to do, the things you never got to say, the fights that remained unresolved, the anger never expressed, the love never given voice to, the hugs never exchanged.
And that’s when you realise that the phrase ‘live every moment as if it might be the last’ is not a cliché. It is a truth that we should wake up to every morning and clutch to ourselves every night when we go to sleep.
On a more mundane, everyday level, this means getting your affairs in order. Don’t put off writing your will because you feel that it is tempting fate, or simply because you think that you are far too young to think of stuff like that. Make sure your spouse/parent/child knows where the keys to the bank locker are and what the combination to the safe is. If you want to be an organ donor, sign up now. Don’t burden your kids with the decision of how your medical care should go; leave clear instructions while you are still in control of all your faculties.
But while taking care of the practicalities, don’t let the emotional side of life slide past you. Hold your kids tight every day and tell them how much you love them. Kiss your spouse goodbye every morning when you leave the house. Don’t ever go to bed angry; always make up before your head hits the pillow. And most importantly, don’t leave anything – good, bad or ugly – unsaid. Express your anger and resentment and get it out of your system. Reconcile your differences. Share your feelings with those who matter while you can; or be racked with regret later.
And while you’re at it, don’t put off anything for tomorrow that you could do today. Don’t postpone that family holiday for the following summer because you are overworked at the office. If you’re missing a friend, pick up the phone and speak to her now. Get your grandmom to tell you the stories of her childhood. Start that book you’ve been meaning to read forever. Make your own bucket list, and promise yourself you’ll tick one thing off every week.
Yes, life is far too short. It can end in an instant. So, be sure to make every moment count.
Follow Seema on Twitter at twitter.com/seemagoswami
HT Brunch, February 17
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