Yesterday, on the last day of 2016, we attended the funeral of a family friend and member of our community who was courageous, kind, had a ton of sass, and who always reminded us that laughter is the key to surviving hardship. Laughter, and love.
Many, many people gathered to say goodbye, despite the biting cold. It was a heart warming tribute to a man who had lived in such courage and compassion, and who had touched the lives of everyone who had the great honour of having met him.
It was a hard day for me personally, because the last funeral I had been to was my mother’s. It’ll be 9 years this month since we lost her. That day was by far the most devastating day of my life. And as we sat in Auntie K’s living room yesterday, consoling her in her grief, the many women gathered spoke frequently of my mother, as they were all close friends of hers as well. They said they often remembered her during difficult times, because she taught them how to navigate life’s ups and downs with grace and faith. It made me proud to hear the things they remembered about her — her strength, her integrity, her kindness and genuine heart, her fire, and her love.
To this day, I can’t think of my mother without tears. I imagine it’ll be that way all the long days of my life. The loss I felt from losing her is one that still threatens to consume me almost daily. It’s easier not to talk about her, but I didn’t want to rob those beautiful women of the opportunity to remember someone so dear to them.
“I’m going to turn into a popsicle,” she said
I remember when my mom died…she was prepared. So prepared. She had put all of her affairs in order, imparted last words to all the people that mattered, made her peace, and greeted death as a friend. The winter that year was one of unbearable cold, and the day of my mother’s funeral was in the -40’s with the windchill. She had joked shortly before she died that when we buried her she’d turn into a popsicle. That was my mother.
And yet, despite the bone-chilling cold, there were hundreds of people at her funeral. When I saw the people that braved the cold for her, my heart felt full, for I knew they were all there out of love.
Another year begins today
And so starts 2017 in contemplation of the fragility of life. 2016 taught me some harsh but valuable lessons. I’m a pleaser, you see. I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make everyone happy or comfortable, often at my own expense. I tell you that because it’s relevant to an incredibly important lesson I learned this past year:
Not everyone who crosses your path will be worthy of your friendship. Your kindness, yes. But not your friendship.
I love and give waaaaaay too easily. Always have. Because with me, what you see is what you get. I don’t play games. I don’t have an agenda. I don’t make my relationships conditional on anything. If I like you, we’re friends, and I will treat you as such. So unfortunately I have spent a lot of time in my life chasing friendships with people who don’t really value friendship with me.
The truth is there are very few people in my life that would come to my aid if I called them — not just at 2am (as the saying goes), but at any time. When I saw the number of people that hopped on a plane at a moment’s notice to be here for Auntie K in her time of great need, it really made me stop and think. How many people would be willing (able is a different story) to do that for me?
How many people would be willing to stand outside in temperatures that would make your skin freeze in moments, to pay their final respects to me when I depart this earth?
How many people would truly be willing to brave the cold when the sunshine in my life was dimmed and I needed their warmth to carry me through?
Probably not many. And frankly, that’s ok.
Who would brave the cold for you?
Social media has truly skewed our perceptions of friendships, relationships, and reality. It is wonderful in that it allows us to remain connected to everyone in our circle…but it also has the insidious power of leaving us disconnected from those that are sitting right next to us. It has turned us into a society of people who value quantity over quality when it comes to relationships. How many friends have I “collected”? How many likes do I have? How many followers?
So here’s what I would like to suggest for 2017 – unplug regularly and cultivate true connection with people who would brave the cold for you, who would brave the rain. Stop chasing the approval of the people who truly are “fair weather” friends.
And when you sit down with those friends, don’t talk about the weather. Don’t talk about the things that are bothering you. Don’t just spend time in complaint. Don’t make superficial, idle chit chat. Really get to know them. What do they believe in? What do they love? What inspires them? Do they believe in aliens and alternate dimensions? What’s their favourite colour? What’s their favourite memory? What is their favourite smell in the whole world?
Get to know THEM in a way that social media will never allow. Hold their hand and gaze into their eyes and tell them what they mean to you. Hug them whenever you see them. And make it a point to see them more.
And the few people who already fill those shoes are the ones who should get your priority of focus in 2017. Because here’s the truth — we’re all busy. All of us. But like a garden, any relationship left untended…especially the one that you assume will always be there simply because it always has…that’s the one that will wither and die long before you feel the impact of its loss.
I’ve never thought much about it until now…but it is more important to me than ever to have people in my life that would brave the cold for me, that will cry when I’m gone, that will remember, not how awesome my Facebook posts were or how clever my Instagram was…but who will remember how safe they felt when I hugged them, or how much I made them laugh. People who will truly feel the loss when I am gone, because I meant something to them when I was here.
Make this the year you cultivate REAL relationships, dear reader. Because that is all you leave behind when you’re gone…love.