“Before someone’s tomorrow has been taken away, cherish those you love, appreciate them today.” ~Michelle C. Ustaszeski
One day after being on a spiritual path for many years, I stood in my art studio, happy to be creating a new painting. Content in my life, I was married to a great guy and raising two young boys that brought me so much joy.
My life was perfect. Well, not exactly, but I definitely had moments of thinking it was, and this happened to be one of those moments.
I had come a long way. Gone were the constant “what if’s” and the fear that I was going to get that phone call that someone got hurt, or worse. I could now put things into a larger framework. I was no longer stuck in my own jail with my fear and self-limiting thoughts. I had risen above all of that.
Dusk no longer brought me down, even Sunday nights were fine. I used to get melancholy every Sunday evening. I had figured out that I was the problem. I learned to allow more good into my life, and had many revelations that changed my energy into a more positive one. I reinvented myself.
A few years prior, my dad had a heart attack, and he vowed to take better care of himself so he would be here for many more years with his family. The doctor gave him twelve years with his new valves, and we like to think all our prayers gave him five more.
Those five extra years were truly a gift, as he and my mom moved to Henderson and spent time with my brother and sisters who lived nearby with their families. My twin sister and I would drive from Los Angeles at least once a month with our families, and he enjoyed his grandchildren and loved that we all saw each other as often as we did.
He especially loved Christmas. Every Christmas Eve we would make our traditional fish and pasta dinner. I always looked forward to spending the day together shopping for the food and then preparing it for that very special evening.
Hands down the most important day of the year was Christmas Eve, and when the whole family came together, it was magical.
My Dad had a pretty tough exterior. His nickname was Muggy, and boy did he live up to it. He was a handsome man with Italian dark skin and beautiful green eyes, a flash of white teeth, when he threw you that half smile. He was a pretty tough guy with a quick to anger demeanor.
I was one of four girls that were all of dating age, and he made any boys who would come to pick us up really uneasy. I always felt uncomfortable introducing them, as there would be some sort of Godfather music playing in my mind through the awkward moments till I could flee the house to freedom and breathe again.
A friend of mine referred to him as Al Capone and I had to give him that, as I would watch him drive down the street, his fedora tilted the way he always wore it, a cigarette dangling off his lower lip.
I, however, was not intimidated by him, because I knew the real man, the interior that was kind and gentle and as soft as a teddy bear.
As I became a young adult, and went out on my own, our relationship stayed strong.
My father was one of my best friends. He was on speed-dial, and my go-to person when I needed someone to talk to. He was there for me financially when things weren’t that great. He was my rock and my safety net and I would share everything with him, the good news and the bad.
He would yell for my mom to pick up the other line if it was important (and then get annoyed that he couldn’t hear me, because she talked over him). He would ask me are you gonna make me laugh, or are you gonna make me cry? I guess I was always calling to either complain or share a funny story.
My father called me every morning, and no matter what I was doing I picked up and spoke to him. I cherished our morning talks and worried about one day losing him.
A horrible divorce from my first husband led me to a new life path that would take me on a journey that, well, I’m still on.
I read The Language of Letting Go, by Melody Beattie, then I read every spiritual book I could get my hands on. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, and The Power of Now blew me away, as it was all I needed to finally escape my dark fears about death and the worry about my dad.
When I married again, my dad was there to support me along with my beautiful mom, and they were there for the birth of both of my sons.
So, back to the moment in the art studio…
After hanging up from my morning call from my dad, I reflected on the idea that with all I read, and all that I now understand, I would be okay if something happened to him. That my spiritual journey had guided me to this very moment in time.
I repeated the sentence in my head: I would be okay if something happened to him.
As I stood there in that sunlit room, I could hear the words ringing in my head, ringing with the power of truth that this truly was the gift.
The gift of emotional and spiritual maturity to handle what was soon to be my dad’s last Christmas with us.
A few weeks later, on Christmas night, after we all had dinner together. My dad wasn’t feeling well and went home earlier than usual.
That’s the night we got the phone call, the call that I spent my whole adult life worrying about. My last Christmas with Dad, my last morning call from my best friend.
The loss of my father was beyond words for me, but if we can live in each moment, we can stay strong and realize that we are okay when loved ones leave this earth.
I was gifted precious years with him and enjoyed every phone call, every visit, and celebrated all of the time I shared with him.
Of course I grieved, and I still miss him every day, but what I realized was that we do have the strength needed to carry on with our happy lives. That we were blessed to have them while they were here and that we are better for having known them, for their memories live forever in our hearts.
We never know when we will lose someone so dear to us; it’s easier to accept the inevitability of loss when we can look back without regrets. Be fully present with your loved ones while you have the chance. Not everyone gets the gift of five more years, even if you pray for them.
Happy people image via Shutterstock