Last night, during a family holiday dinner, I stood by the pantry watching my loved ones from a distance. I smiled when my sister-in-law Missy let out her big, exuberant laugh. I took note of my brother Steven’s sly smile as he teased his wife Jan. I snapped a group photo with my mind’s eye of the raucous clan before me – the gang I call my people.
This is what I’d miss if you were gone, I thought to myself as I scanned the room in search of memorable moments. I do this more often these days because it’s that time of life when loss becomes a more frequent visitor who reminds us of what really matters – people.
Some might call this practice morbid or even tempting fate, but I call it paying attention. It all started years ago during a squabble with my husband. One morning, as Michael got out of bed, he yawned so loud it startled me awake and I snapped at him for disturbing my peace. As he waltzed into the bathroom, without missing a beat, he jokingly said, “You’d miss it if I was gone.”
I pulled the covers over my head, nestled back into bed, and thought to myself, He’s right. This is what I’d miss if you were gone.
Ever since that day, I’ve used this practice to remind myself to be present with people. I use it to avoid silly arguments, to value rather than judge differences, and to appreciate the little things that will become big things later on.
So much has changed in our lives in a few short years that it’s easier to distract ourselves with phones, TV shows, and social media than to be present with the discomfort of our new reality. But when we dissociate we miss life. We miss the unique ways in which people show us who they are. And we lose moments we can never get back. So, I use the threat of loss to my advantage.
Just this morning I opened a birthday gift from my Mom and laughed out loud at the kitchen cat towels that look like our tabbies Berty and Wednesday. As I read the card with its passages underlined multiple times, I thought to myself, this is what I’d miss if you were gone.