I am reminded this week that if we have any power at all, it is in this very moment. And as I write that, I realize it sounds like something you’d read on a cocktail napkin at a Tony Robbins seminar. Apologies for that. Mea culpa, but I’m still plunging ahead here.
This post was going to be a virtual holiday coffee klatch, cheery and newsy and bright. I’m not going to wax dark on you, I promise. But, I’ve got to keep it real and the Universe is handing me some serious stuff. As I began a conference call this morning, I glanced at the personal email I had opened moments before joining. I had to read it twice to digest it. The high school classmate I had just instant messaged two days ago—a package addressed to her sits in my office—is dead. She died in her sleep of a sudden heart attack.
After I got over the shock, I immediately went where us Catholics tend to go—guilt. Why didn’t I send the package sooner? As if that matters, right? It was a book for military moms. She had shared with me that her eldest would be joining the military and I was going to share with her a book that really helped and comforted me when my son did the same. She had recently sent me pics of her boys and I planned to enclose a Christmas card showing off mine.
Colette and I weren’t friends in the traditional sense. We knew each other in high school and were friendly, but not close. We reconnected because of this very blog, in fact. She reached out three years ago after reading a post I wrote on the tough time I was going through. She said she would love to chat. And, it appeared she’d kept her sense of humor: “Hi, Kristine! Hope you are well. I just want you to know things will get better! I’m living proof of that! Just hang in there and breathe. ‘It takes courage to believe the best is yet to come.’ –Robin Roberts. If that doesn’t help, the Power Puff Girls will. They fight crime AND they’re in a band.”
We did speak, finally, a few months later via phone. She shared her story with me—a tough one that involved alcoholism, cancer and a wealth of hurt– but she was trying to live out a better ending. She sent me this:
As she put it: “I’m living in recovery and gratitude.”
In the three-and-a-half years since we reconnected, Colette would reach out every few months to make sure we stayed in touch. She was far better at it than I was. I’d open my social media account to a pic of her boys on their father’s farm in southern Ohio. A thank-you for a box of my old CDs, telling me how much she enjoyed listening to the ‘80s all over again as she canned tomatoes. A photo of her niece playing the bass. After reading this post of mine on common courtesy, she sent me this: “Great article today Kristine! As a Retail Associate I can tell you how many people treat me like crap! My boys have learned the same lessons [you mentioned in your blog]. It’s nice to know when something I said sticks with them. Bravo for your victory—you need to pat yourself on the back.”
After she read my blogs on online dating, she reached out with this: “Hey Kristine! I actually did it . . . I threw my hat into the ring of online dating. Why not. I need an adventure, right? So far, no luck. Hope this will be an interesting summer. LOL.”
The next week, I got: “Do you want to start a business with me? It will be online dating where our friends and family help to pick men out (because I’m not really good at it myself). It would be cool. We could go on Shark Tank. If we didn’t meet anyone, at least we would be rich! It’s all good.”
And the following week: “Look, it’s Santa,” about a man she’d been matched with. Yes, unfortunately he did look like Santa. A couple of months later, after seeing her looking happy on Facebook with someone who was definitely not Santa, I sent: “So, I think you’ve moved beyond Santa? Yes? Met a nice guy?” She responded enthusiastically that she had and was having a lovely time being loved again. While it did not last, I’m now so grateful she had those few months with him because she smiled so much.
I didn’t wisely use my moments while Colette was alive, really. She had asked if we could meet when I visited my hometown, and yet we didn’t. Entirely my fault. I am always in for such a quick visit and have a large family. Many times, I don’t even see my very close friends because of that. But, I feel badly now that I never made even a short coffee happen between us.
Colette’s death hit hard because just days ago, she was alive and texting me her address. And now, she is simply gone. That dichotomy is hard to digest. I wish I’d used the power inherent in each moment to express to her how much I admired her fight for a happy ending. She had ups and downs—and struggled with some demons—but tried hard to stay on the positive side of things.
The last exchange between us was just 10 days ago. And the last thing I sent her was a short sentence asking for her apartment number. Talk about an uninspirational ending. Colette would not have appreciated me ending the blog with that mundane bit. After all, her response included: “Let the Xmas season begin!” So, instead, I’ll leave you with two things she sent me over the past several years to cheer me. She was a real cheerleader for this blog. I think it would make her happy to know that a few of her bits of inspiration might help you today.
The first, for any of you divorced or widowed, is a HuffPost essay about the possibility of a happy ending. Colette believed in those, that I know. And the second is, eerily, somehow her parting advice to me, I think. No–I know it is. She sent it to me in one of our first exchanges, and now I know I’ll hold it dear:
Take it in, friends. And take it from me—use your moments wisely, today. Tell someone something that will make them smile. Hug somebody. And welcome the good things heading your way. Here today, gone tomorrow, really happens. Let’s not forget it as we begin the holiday season Colette was so very excited about.
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Mark Hofreiter posted a blog written by Anthony De Melo about finding happiness by learning to stay in the moment. The advice is to stay present even when experiencing grief, sorrow, despair. I’m not very good at that, but am finding that it’s actually easier to feel what I’m feeling than to suppress…We had a recent loss that mirrors your story. My daughter’s mother-in-law died suddenly after a Thanksgiving vacation in Florida. My wife and I got to know her better over a weekend and looked forward to future holidays with her, and then we got a tearful call from my daughter. We’re still processing.
I’m so sorry for the late response–this one slipped by me. I hope you’ve been able to process your grief and stay in the moment. Being good to ourselves that way is sometimes all-consuming, but oh so necessary. Sounds like you get that.
Such a loss hits hard. I’m so very sorry.
Thank you. I guess a good reminder that life should be lived now.
Virtually the same thing happened over here this month. She was an acquaintance from my high school circle whom I didn’t keep in touch with, but my best friend in NYC had had lunch with her a month ago. It was the brain. It saddened me greatly in part bc she was my age.
You have honored her by sharing her lovely spirit with us. There really is no point in beating yourself up about anything. She sounds like a gift, and she certainly seems to have enjoyed and appreciated your presence in her life.
I’m so sorry. Being the same age is a shocker, right? Because I think no matter how old any of us gets, there is a part of us that feels we are still that “invincible” 18-year-old.
So sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute to your friend.
Thank you. It does make you think. Lately, I’ve been using the good towels, etc. Not saving things for a rainy day.
I’m so sorry for your loss Kay, ❤
Thank you, Masha. I appreciate it.
I’m sorry for your loss, Kristine. And you’re right. We never know what lies ahead. We must try and live life as consciously as possible.
Thank you. Good things to keep in mind as we celebrate the holiday season . . . let’s make the most of it.
Kay, my dear: I’m saddened to hear this news. And heartened by your efforts to find an insight from this. You’re so good at this. It’s one of the things that make your posts impactful.
Thank you, Cynthia. I’m always mentally noshing on some insight, right? Not sure if that’s good or bad–but if some good comes of it, all the better. Hope you’re looking forward to a wonderful holiday season with your family!
Death is the teacher of life. Never have I not learned from death or dying. Always ever present, in every moment, I practice remembering My life is a gift. A beautiful and moving reminder to us all. Thank you for sharing Kristine 🙏🏻💚
And thank you for reading and sharing your wisdom. I always appreciate it. You make this virtual watering hole richer🙏🏻
You too Kristine 🙏🏻💕
I’m so sorry for your loss Kristine; this is a beautiful tribute to Colette.
Thanks, Andrea. I always have to think twice before I share any personal bits. But I think I have only shared what would make Colette happy. I appreciate your kind words.
I’m so sorry, Kristine. Colette sounded like she was working her way back to where she always wanted to be. Your words, describing her comments and reactions, would have made her smile. I wonder what she might have said..:)
Death has always confused me, if that’s even the right word to use, but you probably know what I mean. When it cones suddenly, it’s even more difficult to digest.
I’ll keep her positive thoughts with me as we move through this Christmas season . God rest her soul and my added prayers for the safety of your son.
Thank you, George. And you hit it on the head–the suddenness is jarring, to say the least. No time to really absorb or prepare. I really wanted to see a happy ending for her. But like you, I’m going to keep positive thoughts around me. And speaking of prayers for my son–he’s home! Blog on that coming up . . . but this mama couldn’t be happier. An early Merry Christmas to you and yours.
I’m so happy he’s home! What a great gift during this holiday season. Enjoy and have a very Merry Christmas.
This is a beautiful post. Death of a loved one always stops us on our track. Your post resonated more because this week I am also dealing with the sudden news of death of a colleague, who killed herself and people who knew her well had no clue that her depression was so severe. Although she was not somebody I had interacted very closely with, but it breaks my heart to think that she had been so overwhelmed with her sadness, so alone in her dark thoughts, and she never shared these strong negative emotions with anyone. When we lose a loved one, we become more conscious about the remaining ones in our lives, we reach out to let them know they are cherished. But when you lose a casual acquaintance? Suddenly the connection does not remain so “casual” any more, this person, in her death, has touched you in a way, has rattled you in a way, not too many people have. How to deal with these emotions? I am trying kindness…with all people I remotely or closely interact with in my life, I am trying to consciously choose kindness in all my interactions. If someone is having dark thoughts, depressing thoughts, which I have no clue of, I can at least be kind to that person.
Thanks again for a lovely post.
I am so sorry about your colleague. I am sure you are still dealing with the shock of it. And you are absolutely right-when something like this happens, it makes you truly aware of your interactions with other people. I love that you are choosing kindness. If more of us did that, the world would truly be a different place. Thank you for visiting and for your thoughtful comments.
I’m so sorry about the loss of your friend, Kristine. I know what you mean about the dichotomy (alive and then gone), having lost a good friend two years ago. He was there and a few nights later, he wasn’t. Wonderful advice on using our time wisely. 🙂
Thanks so much, Robin. I appreciate it. And I’m sorry about your friend. It’s shocking when it’s so abrupt. I hope you have wonderful memories that warm your heart.
It’s so easy to put death out of our minds and suddenly there it is. Sorry about your friend.
So true. And yet, we can’t walk around thinking about it all the time, right? But makes it more shocking when it happens. Thanks for the kind sentiment.
I am sorry for you loss. What a beautiful tribute to Colette and life.
(And thank you for reminding me to mail a package I have now for a dear friend verses waiting for Christmas – as everyday is). ❤ and HUG.
Oh, mail it now! It’ll bring joy early:). Thank you for the hug and the kind words . . . always welcome here!
I’m so sorry for your loss Kristine. It’s hard not to beat ourselves up for the things we don’t do, but it sounds to me like re-connecting brought joy to you both and now you’ve honoured your friend, and brought some food for thought to this table. Kia Kaha.
I like that. Thank you. You’re right–I honored her and hopefully some people will chew on what this post brings to the table. That is a deed well done, right?
Yes it is 😀
I’m so terribly sorry about your friend. I’ll bet just the fact that you stayed connected with her meant a lot to her–don’t feel guilty about not doing more. Our little universes are like Venn diagrams that intersect but that middle bit is what counts.
Venn diagrams. I like that👍🏻
Oh, Kay, I am so sorry to hear about the sudden passing of your friend Colette.
Please think this way. Although you did not get the chance to see her on your quick visits home, your words and deeds via today’s most popular manner of communicating no doubt provided your friend many opportunities to smile.
Thank you, Mark. That is wonderful, positive way to look at it-and it is not surprising that such positive advice comes from you :-). I hope you are looking forward to a wonderful Christmas season with your family.
Thank you so much for those wonderful words, Kay. And I hope you find much joy this season as well!
From your closing paragraph, it sounds like you are like me … in a moment like this, looking for the purpose – the why – in having someone come into your life only to leave it. We feel sadness and guilt about the woulda / coulda / shouldas … having to remind ourselves to savouri the moments of connection.
As you process this most recent loss in your life, I hope this Christmas season shines a litter brighter than usual.
I plan on savoring each moment of this Christmas season, all the more so because of this. Hopefully, I’ve inspired a few people to do the same❤️
I’m sorry that a friend you connected with is gone, but definitely not forgotten. Hold on to the special memories you shared, and appreciate the fact that she died peacefully in her sleep. I like your message to put one foot in front of the other and follow your passion.
Thank you, Marlene, for the kind words. I plan on walking into that bright future for both of us!
It always amazes me how we are so resilient and so fragile at the same time. I love her drawing about the plan vs what happened.
No guilt, it’s a huge waste of time. Deep sorrow, deep breath, and walk on. Colette and the Powerpuff Girls wouldn’t want it any other way.
You are so right. Those Powerpuff Girls are tough cookies🙂. Thank you for the kind words. It’s wise advice.
My thoughts… Not a Tony Robbins napkin but a sincere and specific share from Candid Kay. And here is my thought. Asking for her apartment number was as clear a message of love as “I love you.” Implicit was “because I’m thinking of you and I am about to send you a parcel.” Love is expressed in all these mundane ways minute by minute. It’s hard for you, the shock of her death. PS I am an instant fan of the Powerpuff Girls, thank you!
Oh, converting yet another Powerpuff fan would have made her immensely happy, Rachel! 🙂 And Your thought is beautiful. You are so very right. It is all the myriad mundane ways that we express love that matter. Thank you for that lovely reminder.
“Just don’t stop walking.” That’s the ticket right there. Sounds like a great friend; I’m so very sorry for your loss. It’s always so shocking when someone’s here one day and gone the next – especially when it’s unexpected.
It’s odd that while I appreciated the “don’t stop walking” meme that she sent, it struck me for just a second. And then I forgot about it. But now that she is gone, I am feeling like that quote from her holds a very special meaning. It’s too bad that many times we don’t realize things in the moment.
Sorry for your loss Kristine. You penned a heartfelt tribute to Collette and making the most of life while we can. Thanks, Brad
Thanks, Brad. I certainly tried.
Grief is a bitch. I am so sorry for the passing of Colette and all impacted by her sudden loss. A somber reminder to live each day like it could be your last.
Thank you, Bryce. I’m keeping her family—especially her sons—in my prayers.
Sorry for your loss. No one knows how much time we have with people or to reconnect with them. At least you had some time together.
Very true. Thanks. 🙏🏻
Oh, Kristine, dammit. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. Thank you for writing about Colette, though, your words are an important reminder for all of us. Tomorrow is not a guarantee – we mustn’t ever forget that. And, not even for a second, should we take for granted the moment we are in. Thanks for this. Big hug to you. xoxo
Thank you. Really sweet of you. I wished so much more joy her way.
Unable to post directly:
An apt reminder in this world of envelopment by technology. Thank you.
And yet, ironically, it was technology that allowed Colette and I to reconnect. I guess it has its uses!
I had to come back because I read that Huffpost essay. Sheesh, for me to read it at this particular time of the year was quite perfect. Thank you.
Oh, friend, I thought of you when I read it. She did a beautiful job capturing that one . . .
She so did.
So much younger than me.
And my friend was 40 when it happened to her with her two small boys. She is very happily remarried now.
The warmth and wisdom of this cherished friendship lives on in so many ways. Yes, we truly must embrace all that we hold dear, and do it every day, in some way. All best to you, and to the memory of your thoughtful and caring friend.
Thank you, Kathy. I think we’d go insane if we really had to live with how precarious it all is, right? But I hope, on balance, we get it right.
Jeez Louise, Kristine. You end up making me catch up on past blog posts! Except for the “courtesy” one. I remember reading that one “live”….
Oh man. Robin sounded like a fabulous person to know. I am so sorry for your loss and completely understand that suddenness of losing someone – both close and close-ish. She definitely imparted some useful wisdom…
Now I am off to read that link to the Huffpost essay.
Lotsa love and hugs, Dale xo
Thank you for following the links! I love what you said on my online dating post:). LOL. And the HuffPost essay will make you tear up . . .
And it didn’t, but it did make me feel pretty darn good.
My condolences. What a beautiful post in her honor.
Thank you. She did love this blog, so I am thinking it would make her happy to be included . . .
Sorry for your loss, Kristine. If anything should tell us we only have today, this is it. ❤️
Thank you, Jennifer. I’m taking it in joy, not sorrow–or at least trying to. I feel like it’s a message I can make something of . . . and I sure did need the reminder myself.