My dear friend and I share tragic experiences, the emotions surrounding them, and the lessons in life they teach. My friend had driven 7 hours to attend for son Paul’s funeral. Then last November I spent a weekend with her following her son’s death. Her son and mine share death anniversaries, August 31st. The pain ripped through me again as it had with my own children’s deaths,
I was transported back into our mutual reality when she called me recently after several months of only brief e-mail communication. First we chatted easily about our jobs and upcoming retirement. We share the same employer in different cities. Then she told me she had other news. She has cancer in both breasts. She went on to explain her plans, adding that she has lost no sleep over this revelation. After a few more minutes I stopped her to observe that no matter what horrible news we may receive, following the loss of a child it is not earth shattering! We have a unique perspective on what really matters.
I thought of an experience I had a few years ago. I had bought a beautiful candy-apple red truck (always a truck for safety), flared box, moon roof and all. It was a special gift to myself. Eight months later it was stolen from my driveway. It was found a week later, buried in mud with $18,000 damage. My friend wouldn’t let me see it because of the pain he thought I would feel. But I did look at pictures. He couldn’t believe I had no reaction. I told him, “It’s only a truck. It can be replaced.” End of story.
In my conversation with my friend I was reminded that there are valuable lessons to be learned from even our worst experiences. It is clear that the loss of my children has given me a valuable perspective on what is really important and what is not. Things definitely are not. They are just things.