A Lesson About Love Learned from Both Joy and Tragedy

Holding Hands

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~Albert Einstein

A couple of months ago, I had one of the best and worst weekends in a very long time.

My best friend for the last 15 years was getting married, and I was in the wedding party. We spent most of the weekend eating, drinking, laughing, and reminiscing, and above all celebrating a beautiful love story of two very wonderful people.

It was particularly special to me, as earlier this year my boyfriend and I moved a thousand miles away, to Austin, Texas. Since 2010 I’d lived a three-hour drive from my Chicago area childhood home, but now I felt exceptionally far from most of the people I love.

Emotions were high on the day of my friend’s wedding, and beyond the obvious excitement, we all felt a little nervous for her, as she’d expressed anxiety about walking down the aisle in front of so many people.

Based on her smiles and laughter, the day went by without a hitch, until ten minutes before the ceremony was set to start. My friend’s mother was holding up her veil and fanning her; she was feeling lightheaded. It seemed to be a combination of nerves and the fact that she’d forgotten to eat anything that day.

The bridesmaids and groomsmen (all 18 of us!) alternated between doting on her and giving her more space. We kept anxiously glancing at each other, silently asking, “What should we do?”

Then her mother started to sing. “Goooing to the chapel, and we’re gonna get maaaarried.” We all joined in.

We sang 60’s Motown, 90’s boy bands, every Disney song we could think of. When we couldn’t remember the words to a song, someone would shout out the beginning of a new one.

My friend got up and danced with her soon-to-be husband, and by the end of it all, she was smiling. I choked back tears, feeling the love fill the room. When the wedding planner told us it was time to line up, the bride was ready to go.

After the ceremony, I enjoyed the company of some old friends I hadn’t seen in years, danced and danced for hours, and shed a few more tears at some of the speeches in my friend’s honor. The next morning I woke up with a lost voice and leg cramps from dancing that didn’t go away for two days.

At the day-after brunch, my friends and I dissected what parts of the night had us crying the most, and I wondered out loud when in life I became such an emotional baby. Had I always been like this?

“No, you weren’t,” one of my high school friends said. “I think it happened when you moved away.”

Of course, she was right. Since I left the area in 2010 to work in TV news, I spent nearly every weekend or holiday working, and I missed a lot. Most birthdays, Thanksgivings, Christmases, and other reunions I was either working or simply unable to get back to town.

On an emotional level, I had become hyperaware of how lucky I was when I got to share in some of life’s most joyful moments.

I left that morning in the haze of a sort of happiness hangover. I reminded myself how important it is to cherish and nourish the ties with my oldest friends. I resolved to be a better friend—call more, make plans, reach out and make sure they’re doing okay, even if I can’t always be physically there to share my love.

I wish I had more time to soak in that happy feeling.

The night after the wedding, I was relaxing in bed at my parents’ house, surfing the web. I came across the Facebook status of an old family friend, and my heart dropped.

I love you dad, look down on us and keep us safe.”

His dad was one of my father’s oldest, closest friends. He was my sister’s godfather and a groomsman at my parents’ wedding. For as long as I can remember, he had been there to celebrate every major milestone in our lives.

I went down to my parents’ room, uncertain how to break the news. My frown must have given something away, because my mom asked what was wrong. “I think I have some bad news,” I said. “I think Michael died.”

It was too late to call anyone, so we scoured Facebook for clues. By the end of the night, we were all but certain he was gone, though we weren’t sure how.

The next morning, as I was getting ready to catch a flight back to Texas, the phone rang. My dad was calling my mom from his office, but I picked up the other extension. I don’t think they knew I was on the line when he told her, “He killed himself.”

My mind was reeling. I stood in the shower, sobbing, not quite able to fully grasp that this person I thought would always be a part of my life was gone.

I started to ask myself questions. When was the last time I had seen Michael and his family? When was the last time we called them?

My dad dropped me off at the airport, and when he hugged me goodbye I felt a sob catch in his throat. I didn’t ask, but I suspected he felt guilty for not being more present for his friend. I think he wondered, as I did, if there was anything he could have done to keep his friend from taking such a drastic step.

That Wednesday, I missed yet another reunion because of the career path I chose, though this was, of course, the saddest of reunions. I swallowed my tears through a day of work and called my parents as soon as I got home.

The tears flowed as my mother told me how Michael’s friends and family packed the church; how the visitation line was so long they eventually had to turn people away.

He had been struggling with depression for months, after losing the liquor store business he ran for decades. His wife told my family that there was nothing they could have done; he refused phone calls and visits from nearly everyone.

I remembered my promise to myself to be a better friend. I wrote her a long letter, sharing my memories of her husband and saying how I have learned to appreciate what time we have with the people we love.

I thought of my parents getting married 26 years ago, filled with joy and surrounded by Michael and the rest of their closest friends. I thought of my best friend’s wedding, and the lifelong memories I’ll have of sharing that blissful day.

I wondered, in 26 years, will I be rocked by the news that one of the people I love has been taken from us too soon? Will I know I had done everything to let them know they were loved and cherished? Or will I cling to old memories, knowing I had let too much time and too many unsaid words fly by?

I resolved to be a better friend.

Let’s all resolve to be better friends. Because whether you are celebrating the greatest day of someone’s life, or filing in a line to say goodbye, today is all we have.

Just days apart, I learned the same lesson from both a joyful celebration and a terrible tragedy. Life is made special by the people we put in it. It shouldn’t require a wedding or a funeral to remind us that we are in this together.

Even from 1,000 miles away, you can let someone know that you love them. And in the process, you’ll probably see that you’re loved too.

Photo by slightly-less-random

About Kristin Maiorano

Kristin Maiorano is a TV news producer. Originally from the suburbs of Chicago, she now lives with her boyfriend and two dogs in Austin, Texas. You can follow her on Twitter @krismaio.

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  • Alexa Quill

    I really liked this post. It really hit home for me. My dad died over a year ago and he didn’t tell anyone (except his immediate family) that he was sick. Dying at only 53 years old was a shock to so many. He has friends that are still having a hard time dealing with it. My dad also didn’t talk to his sister for 10 years. Luckily they made peace before his passing but they still missed out on so much time together. I vowed when he died I will never cut someone out of my life because they will not be around forever. Thank you for a well written post.

  • What a beautiful story and a beautiful message. Thank you for sharing.

  • Thank you, Alana! I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

  • Thank you, Alexa, and I’m so sorry about your dad. I’ve been lucky to have only lost a few people close to me in my life so far, and this was particularly difficult with how young our friend was. The finality of death has always been hard for me to accept. I hope you and your dad’s friends can continue to find some peace in it all.

  • Kacy

    Love it

  • really beautiful, thank you for sharing this. eerily similar to a lot of moments experienced in my life in the last two years, from getting married to my best friend moving to Dallas. love and loss. life and death. wonderful post.

  • Keryn

    Beautiful story but I find it so sad that you were unable to attend the funeral of someone so special. I know life gets it the way but its the last time to put your own commitments aside and put an hour or two into thinking about and truly remembering someone with others who loved that person too.

  • Thanks!

  • Thank you Katie. One of the things I’ve learned a lot recently is the only thing that stays the same is that everything always changes…

  • Thanks for the comment, Keryn. It was incredibly sad not to be able to attend, a major regret. I was willing to pay any amount of money to get on a plane back home; unfortunately, it was at a time when my workplace was short staffed and since our friend is not immediate family there was no way for me to get the time off. I wish more than anything I could have been there with our friends and family…

  • Keryn

    Yep, it can be such a juggle with work, I understand. It’s sad your employer couldn’t be more flexible. Keep up the insightful writing. An enjoyable read 🙂

  • Thank you for your kind words! 🙂

  • cat

    boo… uninspiring to those of us also suffering from depression.

  • It’s difficult to try to be there everyone else. You have to do what is important for you and your life. All of the support that you and your friends gave to the bride and her family is a testament to the fact that you ARE a great friend. The same goes for your father’s friend who died…the letter you sent to his wife shows that their family is in your thoughts and they have your support from afar.

    Having been to several funerals of friends and family myself, I want to let you know that sometimes, having tons of people around can be overwhelming for the grieving. Everybody is different and some people just want some peace when they have a loss. I think that both of your efforts…providing moral support, laughs and great memories at the wedding AND sending the letter, is more than most people do for those that they claim are close to them or “loved ones.” Cheers to you for putting efforts into maintaining the relationships that you have! The world would be a better place if more people followed suit.

  • Madhu

    I know and I understand, what you have gone through. But at times we all limit ourselves out of why cannot the other person call and why should I be always the only one to do this. I have time to write this comment but would take time to pick up the phone and call. Many a time the phones are put on blacklist. What is this ? My own son who has alienated from me for all wrong reasons, has totally disconnected himself from the entire family. He is not happy. I know it. I pray each moment for him. He is not understanding the joys of togetherness. I lost my husband in moments. He lost his father in moments, he did not pick up the phone, I had to ask the neighbours to knock at his door where he was sleeping and break the news. For four years after this I helped him with all finances to set up his studio and his work, disinvested all my fixed deposits to furnish him with all that expensive equipment, not out of obligation but out of mother’s care and love. Then suddenly a woman comes into his life, stays with us , talks over and brought volcanic upheaval, so much so that the entire family has been disrupted. He lives in constant extreme hatred towards one and all, right from his grand father, grand mother, all. An individual who was once full of life, laughter, joy, centre of pranks, and with his antics make everyone laugh has been reduced to only an abusive person. Aren’t he responsible for his actions. The entire family has been making efforts to reunite, forget, forgive and live happily, but there is right now no sign. Each day I wake up, pray and chant for his protection and happiness, pray that he gets back into love and respect and gets back the old value system with which he has been nurtured, but he is still living in distrust and hate.
    I even mortaged the house that I am living in for his business. I do not want to blame the woman. We all have our own sanity and wisdom to distinguish between right or wrong. So he is himself responsible or his behaviour. I try not to be judgemental. Since the time I have taken to Buddhism, I am much more tolerant and at ease and consider this as my Karmic retribution. However, a mother’s emotion is always questioning the relationship. I try positive thoughts by visualising all good things happening and keep praying that all is going to be well. It is now more than two years and seven years into my husbands demise. I live alone yet not alone for I cherish each one around me.
    I have opened a small learning centre for the underscorers, underpriviledged first generation school going students. I get immense love from them. I am vibrant and do not want this to be irking me . I live each moment and do not want to think anything wrong about any one. Many a time the emotional upheavals are there but I get over them.
    Mine a script for tear jerking TV serial.

  • touching♥ i cope with depression and have been very low at times.. this reminds me to think of the lives that i touch. i have lost a few friends to depression… we must remember that even when the present moment is unbearable that it will pass and that when it’s wonderful it will pass… just stay on the ride.

  • Thank you for your kind thoughts, Nicole. It is easy to fall into the critical mindset of “Am I doing enough?” Lately I’ve been trying to use the affirmation, “I am enough.” 🙂 Thanks for reminding me that I am!

  • I’m sorry you’ve been going through this; I’ve had similar situations in my extended family. I can relate to feeling like the other person doesn’t do as much, so why should I? It’s hard but I try to push those feelings aside. I hope that things work out for you and you can manage to reconcile with your son.

  • Julie, I am sure you touch many lives! Great advice, something we can all work to do more. Thanks for reading!

  • Madhu

    I have learnt to appreciate myself more, for we live our lives in others lives, draw happiness from others. I am in fact to some extent content that through this incident in my life, I got this chance to re discover myself. One fine beautiful morning, I just realized that the Happiness that I have been craving for is actually Mine. I am blessed, grateful, for this beautiful rising Sun, these beautiful maize fields, these wonderful clouds up there, it was just that I had to look deeper to Know my choices- Happiness the is Mine or the sadness and remorse that is because of someone. I made my choice that July morning- Happiness. I am sure and was sure of the Right Choice….Baby. I have never regretted ever.
    Yes, emotions do play havoc at times, but those are also learnings.
    I wouldn’t have known you all and I wouldn’t be on this writing. Thanks …Thanks…Thanks.

  • lv2terp

    Beautiful post!! Thank you for sharing your story! 🙂

  • Thank you for reading!

  • Neslyn

    This is so beautiful 🙂

    Upon reading your blog, one idea that is constructing in my mind: unfortunately, we used to realize the importance of a person’s existence not unless he/she is gone.


  • Thank you, Neslyn. Unfortunately, you are right about that. Which is part of why I wrote what I did, hoping to inspire others to appreciate the people in their lives while they still can.

  • Karen

    Thanks Kristin for your honest story.

    To live in this moment, is a gift. Unfortunately, we often only reaise this, after we have lost a loved one.

    May we all appreciate everyone in our life each day.


  • Thank you for your kind words, Karen. I second that we should work harder to appreciate our loved ones.