Do me a favor, please. Hug the people you love, for no reason other than you can. Go ahead, do it right now. Pull out your phone and text your husband that you love him. And your mom. Or maybe your daughter. Perhaps all of them in a big group message.
Better yet, invite them to lunch or dinner and tell them how much they mean to you. Be specific. Don’t be shy. Let them know all the reasons, big and small, they make you and your world a better place.
Seven years ago on September 29th, my beloved husband Dennis lost his battle with pancreatic cancer just 18 days after he was diagnosed. Those 18 days were a flurry of doctor appointments, hospital stays, and precious moments with him, sandwiched in between all of the other medical stuff.
He intended to write letters to each of his children. To me. He never got the chance. Instead, we are all left with bits and pieces of affection and affirmation that were shared and spoken in between the endless parade of doctors and nurses, friends and colleagues.
I know I was loved – deeply and completely – by this man who was my own life and breath. He told me so, over and over, during those last days.
Sometimes, though, I wish he would have left me some additional parting words of wisdom, some advice on how to keep breathing in and out after he was gone. I have wondered so often what he would have wanted and hoped for me. For my daughter.
Somehow, I believe he would have said to me what I would now say to my new husband and my daughter – what I would hope for my family and friends.
Live your life. All of it. It is a gift; even the hard parts. You will be afraid sometimes. You will think you are failing, falling. In those moments, realize you are simply reaching down deeper into parts of you that you have not yet discovered to grasp onto courage you did not know you possessed.
Make room for the possibility of hope in your heart. Even when the shadows seem dark and foreboding, they offer evidence of a light that still shines somewhere, otherwise there would be no shadows; only darkness. Hope is there, waiting; shining. The light will come again.
Faith and doubt, joy and sorrow, spring from the same well. Drink deeply. It is the cup of salvation.
More than anything, know you are loved. Completely. Wholly. Joyfully. Surround yourself with those who both give and receive this same great love in your life.
On the anniversary of my husband’s death, I will read these words to myself. I will remember and honor his life by living my own and loving those who are in it.
Originally printed in my column for the Arizona Republic on September 24, 2014, but not published online.