Death is Never Ordinary

Each of us throughout our lives will lose to death a friend or family member. Death is inevitable. The old axiom that no one gets out of life alive is the absolute truth of the situation. From the very moment we are born we are racing towards our death. Not the best visual, I know, but still true. Yet, even knowing that death is an inevitability we are often caught by surprise. Some folks have a long life, and others are taken much too soon.

poem-of-lifeMy family recently lost a member, my cousin. He was much too young (only 55), and his loss was unexpected. He was my cousin, but also one of my best friends. We did not live in the same state, did not get to see each other very often face-to-face but we talked at least once a week for the last 35+ years on the phone, text, instant messenger or Facebook.  I remember reading a long time ago that a cousin was God’s promise that you would have a friend for life. R has always been the embodiment of that promise. He has always been the best friend a person could have. He was funny, cheerful, loving, irreverent, bawdy, loud, and persistent. God, he was so easy to love.

Oddly, we were not “born” into the same family. I met R while I was a teen, when my aunt married his Dad. I am pretty sure that R never met a person he could not get along with. It always amazed me how he could pull the most reticent person into a conversation and get them to laugh. The most outrageous things would come out of his mouth at times. He told me once that since we were “step-cousin-in-laws” that it was ok to flirt and be bawdy around me. I remember laughing until tears streamed down my face. Like he needed a reason to flirt? Be bawdy? Not ever! Not sure he had any filters – but he was never mean. From the day we met we were family.

tucked-safelyI remember when R was getting ready to propose to his wife, he was so excited. He was so proud on his wedding day. Then the kids started coming along, and with each one that excitement and pride grew in him. R was definitely a family man. And he loved to brag about his kids. Every achievement was proudly proclaimed. I loved listening to him spout off about how wonderful his kids were. Family for R was pretty broadly defined, eventually everyone he met became part of his extended family.

Often very early on a weekend morning, I would login to Facebook and R would be online. He would send me a message “Good Morning Beautiful, what are you doing up this early?”… Which is funny when you consider that my time zone was three hours ahead of his. Did he ever sleep? R and I would talk about everything and nothing at all. His family, mine and our extended family. I read one of the posts in Facebook after his death that said R was the family historian. I find that insightful. He always knew everything going on. A one stop fount of information. I think he had this information because he genuinely cared, and would ask the right questions. I know he always asked about my kids/husband questions that showed he listened to previous conversations and that he was genuinely interested. He will be genuinely missed.

Death hittimelimits hard.  I find myself lost in thoughts about this wonderful man who was taken from us much too soon. I reach for my phone early in the morning to see if he is online so I can tell him some silly story or another. I have lost others, my grandparents, a son, and a few friends to war. So, I know that this dark time will slowly fill with light again.  It just takes time. Even more than 10 years later I still occasionally reach for the phone to call my grandfather to ask his advice or share something special in my life.  Life goes on, and we keep living, sometimes one breath at a time. So, R, my cousin, my friend, I love you and will miss you until the time we meet again, Rest in Peace.

Ordinary Change

I think it is human nature to develop a routine then work to stick to that routine.  That we later come back and complain about the routine of it all is also human nature. For myself, I love a good routine.  I really am not a huge fan of constant changes in my routine. Change is hard. Change is distracting.  Change adds fear and uncertainty to this ordinary lady’s life. Change means I need to engage my brain when I really just want to keep on keeping on!  So change sucks all the way around.agstickfigures8

All of that being said, my entire adult life has been dominated by change: active duty Army, wife of an active duty soldier, mother, business major, and the list goes on. Considering how much change bothers me, I am amazed at how adept I have become at dealing with change.  I still whine when something changes but I can deal.

What is it about change that strikes fear into our hearts? For me, the fear is rooted in the uncertainty of the future.  Since I do not know what will happen I do not have any control over the outcome.  Let’s just say I am a bit of a control freak, and move on.  Seriously, I need to be the captain of my own fate. If things go wrong in my life it should be my fault, not some elusive change to blame.  It is really hard to maintain my control freak status while standing in a tornado of change all the time but I persevere. I am no quitter!

Actually, because I am not a quitter is probably why I have always managed to deal with change.  Just too stubborn to know when to quit, that is me! Long before Tracy Lawrence sang his “Time Marches On” refrain “The only thing that stays the same is everything changes”, it was evident to me that change is a constant and unavoidable.  I had to learn to deal with change or I was sunk.  Is it wrong that some days I want to be a quitter? Just curl up with a good book, a glass of wine and quit the world and all the messy changes! I guess that is a nice vacation from reality, but not a long-term solution, more’s the pity.

I have discovered there is no shortage of advice on dealing with change, just Google “dealing with change” dealing-with-changeto see. Some of the advice you can find is decent enough, some not so much. Honestly some of the advice is a bit silly like “accept uncertainty”. If it was easy to accept uncertainty we would not be afraid of change! Or “create a mental script to help reassure yourself” really? I am pretty sure I talk to myself enough now and if I start answering myself the men in the little white coats are sure to make an appearance.littlewhitecoats

The best advice I ever got about dealing with change was from my grandmother what seems a lifetime ago (I was about 14). She told me to let myself feel whatever it is the change is making me feel (angry, sad, scared, glad, etc.) but don’t let feeling those emotions stop me from succeeding. Being successful is not emotionless, it is about accomplishing a goal in spite of the emotions or because of them. She also said that change, especially big changes will make us want to hide from our emotions and the changes but that would be counterproductive. Tackle the biggest, hardest tasks first so that the smaller easy tasks are a reward as we move through change. Never give up. Grandpa was a bit less wordy, he said, just get it done girl, get it over with and be done!  I miss grandma and grandpa every day.

Change is hard. Change is inevitable. But change is not always bad. I do tend to get stuck more on the bad parts of change instead of the good. However, some of the biggest changes in my life were also the most wonderful things that could have happened to me. My family (husband and kids), all three are never-ending sources of change and disruptions to my life. Yet all three have brought me the most joy in my life.  My career is a source of near constant change and yet is immensely satisfying.

I never planned the path I am on, change brought me to this path.  While I will never be completely comfortable with change, I am willing to keep embracing the changes. That really is the key for this ordinary lady, be willing to embrace the changes. Sure, I will whine, get frustrated, angry, annoyed or pissy when a new change comes around but once that five minutes is over I will move forward and get it done! You do not have to like change to live with it.