A beautiful soul that had been an unexpected encouragement to me for the past couple years passed away close to a week ago. Despite the enormous and exhausting fight she was putting up against cancer, she would send me encouraging notes and messages. She would pray for me and talk to me when all I wanted to do was isolate myself.
She reminded the empty shell of a man that I was that I was loved. And I felt it. And believed it. Beth was truly someone that I will never forget, and will continually aspire to grow into the level of compassion that she exuded on a minute-to-minute basis.
When I heard the news of her passing I cried quietly and thought about all of the people I love. I thought about how, for the past two years, I’ve been focused solely on this internal mental battle to keep the will to live that I let friendships come close to destruction; I became a distant brother, a distant son, and an apathetic friend.
This week I’ve been reflecting a lot about her life. That in light of all she was going through, she chose every single time to reach out to others in love.
The night after she passed was a pretty intense one for me. I woke up in the middle of the night shaking from a very, very, vivid dream that my dad had passed away (Sorry if you’re reading this, pops. I hope it’s not too weird for you). My dad has been battling really severe and difficult health problems for the last ten years, and when I woke up from the dream I was convinced that he had passed away; that the conversation I had with him in the dream was the last conversation I would have with him.
After I calmed down a little bit, the thing on my mind that really upset me is that I remembered, in that moment, that I had forgotten to reply to one of the messages he had recently sent me. I immediately replied to the message, and also sent out random messages to my mom and my sister.
Over the next few days, I took walks around the complex I’m living in to process the week’s events. I would walk and think, and then sit down to read a book called “The Girl With Seven Names” written by a North Korean refugee talking about her often tragic and extremely difficult life. Her life story is permeated with regret in some decisions she made in regards to the relationships to those closest to her — I wept at one point in the book where she was so overcome at the grief of not being able to communicate with anybody that she loved.
While it was an extremely heavy week, I walked out of it with a lot of resolve.
I lost sight of the most important thing in life, the only thing that lasts. I lost sight of what it meant to love. I had become complacent, self-centered, ungrateful and genuinely lazy. I had been using the hurt and confusion I was feeling in my own head and heart to justify not spending my “precious little energy” on others, even those I loved most.
What a bleak way to live.
But I just can’t be that person anymore. The thought that I’ve been complacent as a son, as a brother, as friend, breaks my heart. It really does. I’ve been masquerading as this jaded-yet-compassionate pseudo-intellectual who has something to prove, but in reality I’ve just been immensely self-centered.
That’s not who I am, and I have no intention on letting that be who I am any more.
The “me” that I know I can give the world is what I’m striving for now. It’s the me that Beth believed in. I want to reclaim the parts of me that used to tell people unashamedly how much I loved them, almost on an hour-to-hour basis. I’d rather over-communicate love than withhold it.
I don’t want to miss one opportunity to let my loved ones know how truly loved by me they are. The thankfulness I have for the people that have stuck with me, especially over the last couple years, is something I can’t ever articulate.
I feel weird writing this, to be honest. I don’t want it to sound like I’m trying to draw “inspiration” from something so tragic and so heartbreaking as the reality of losing loved ones, but in the pursuit of honesty and the sickeningly cliched word “transparency,” I just want to try to put words to what I have been feeling and thinking this week.
You see, careers change. The economy, physical locations, passions and interests all change. We will walk through immense challenges, and we will feel like we don’t have energy to deal with the problems between us and the people we care about; we will be afraid to step out and make ourselves vulnerable to each other.
But in a world filled with so many things frantically screaming at us to get our attention; with all of the anxiety and sorrow and tragedy, I believe it is more important than ever to communicate our love for one another.
Because that love between us all is the only thing that lasts.
Thank you Beth, for everything. You are truly missed.