Reflection: Life and Death and All of Us

Think about the happiest moment of your life.

For me, that time came this week when my daughter was born. My heart swelled up with pride and joy as I held her for the first time. But what made it even better was watching my parents hold her, reaching their long-time dream of finally becoming Poppa and Grand-Mary. Their smiles and laughter and congratulations; all of it will stick in my mind forever. There was so much sunshine in the delivery room, so much happiness.

That all changed just five days later. We got a call from Jen’s family that her aunt, who suffered from lung cancer, had a heart attack and collapsed. We rushed to the hospital, where doctors worked for hours to restore her aunt’s pulse and heartbeat. But the inevitable came. Two doctors emerged from the double doors, and I knew. Not everybody realized it immediately, but then came the words.

We did all we could, but there’s nothing more we can do.

Jen’s aunts and uncles cried as the realization struck them. A family member, snatched away. And as the grief filled the room, clusters of two and three people formed all around, holding and consoling one another. I didn’t know her that well, so I stayed apart, gazing at my newborn daughter and watching the tears come down. And as nieces, cousins, sisters and friends wept and hugged, I began to see the parallels with the joy that took place less than a week ago. And it all reduced to one critical point.

We are not meant to do this alone.

Think about that. Go back to the happiest moment in your life, when you felt the most fulfilled, the most excited to be alive. How much better was that moment because you got to share it with a loved one or family? When a baby takes its first steps, what do the parents do? They take pictures and video, and send it to everyone else so they can share in the joy. When I make a meal I know is really good, it’s that much better when somebody else is enjoying it with me. When you get that promotion, or buy a new car, or win a competition, you share it! It’s not bragging; rather it’s amplifying your joy by bringing in your friends and family to share in the excitement.

And the same is true in the worst of times. Where the presence of loved ones increases your happiness in good times, it tempers that sadness of heartbreak and pain. When a child scrapes his or her knee, that child runs to mommy, because she makes it feel better. When a boy breaks up with his teenage girlfriend, she calls her friends to talk it over. And when a loved one leaves us for good, the presence of our family makes the pain easier to bear.

We are not meant to do this alone.

No matter what you’re going through, your friends and family can improve it. Whether it’s people you “know” on social networking sites, or your best friend, or your brother, sharing in the joy and the pain helps all of us along. And if you aren’t going through anything noteworthy right now, reach out to a friend who is. You can increase their happiness and relieve their sadness, without doing anything at all. Because none of us were meant to do this alone.

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