In a few days it will have been 2 years since my mom passed away, and it still feels like it was just yesterday, or like a horrible dream that I sometimes forget is real.
There have been a number of things that losing both my mom and dad within 10 months of each other has taught me or made me realize, and in a major way it has changed the person I am today and the way I now live my life.
Over 2 years ago, I didn't cherish any moments. I didn't ever let myself think I would need to. I took my parents for granted and assumed they would always be around and now, I am constantly reminding the people around me to not do the same thing.
1) Life is too short. Way too short in some cases and you never know when your time is up. I always thought my mom would help me with wedding planning and that my father would give a hilarious toast at my wedding - I was wrong. Neither of those things happened, and I regret not shortening our engagement and having our wedding sooner. If we had, they both might have been there to share it with us, but, in the same thought, I no longer want to live with any regrets -- but it has taught me that from now on, I won't take life for granted, I won't put things off and I will make the most of every moment I have here in this world.
2) Treasure the little things. Before this, I never treasured the little things. I never just stopped to smell the roses. I didn't appreciate everything my parents ever did for me. I didn't truly appreciate just how much it meant to me to talk to my mom everyday (even if it was just a quick 'how was your day?') or how amazing it was that my dad got me a card, box of chocolates and a stuffed animal on every Valentine's Day.
3) Photograph everything. It wasn't until after my mom was gone that I realized how important photographs truly are. She was always the one behind the camera, and was hardly ever in front of it. I only have a handful of photographs of me and my mom, and me and my dad after my teenage years and it is so sad to think about. All I have to cherish, really, is my memories - but, now that I realize how important photos are to me - I make darn sure to take as many family and friend photos as possible.
4) Say I love you. I always say I love you now when my husband leaves the house, or we get off the phone with his parents. I'm not sure what the last words I said to my parents were that they heard, but I know when they were both on life support in the hospital, I whispered those words over and over again. I must have told them both a million times, and I can only hope that they heard me say it and that they knew that. I never want to have to question whether anyone else I love will know that I do when I can't say it to them any more.
5) What true love really is. I'm not sure if I have openly talked about my parents relationship, and I don't think I truly understood it until after my mom passed away. My dad nearly lost himself for a few months - he was depressed, didn't want to live without her and could barely function. Slowly but surely, he managed to get better and eventually seemed to have a better spirit about him and actually happy. I remember saying that when we knew he wasn't going to make it in the hospital, 'Why now? He is finally starting to be happy again!' But, my parents loved each other and it makes me happy to know that they are together, and that they weren't without each other for too long.
6) How strong you really are. I remember my husband saying this to me through both of my parents passing's several times, 'I can't believe what a strong woman you are.' or 'You are amazing to me' and I would think to myself, 'Yeah, right, I am just going through the motions right now.' But now, I can honestly say, I don't know where the strength came from to get through that year. I never knew I had it in me and it's nice to know that strength is in there, somewhere. I still have bad days, days where I just don't want to get out of bed and days where I feel anger and frustration that they were taken from all of us so soon, but those days are fewer and far between. I am proud of myself for how I handled everything, and what I discovered about myself, though. I just hate the way I had to realize how strong I really am.
7) To forgive. I'm not sure if I have mentioned this before on the blog, but the year that my mom got sick we quit speaking in March for over a month (she passed the following January). My mom and I were best friends, we never truly fought with eachother after my wild phase was over at age 14, but this time was different. Many hurtful things were said on both sides, and we went from speaking every day, several times a day, to not speaking for a month. She hurt me and I hurt her. I swore I wouldn't speak to her again, and that was the end of it. Looking back now, I am so thankful that I was able to forgive, swallow my pride and let things go. If I hadn't, we may not have had those last months together and that would have been much, much more tragic.
So, in short - life your life to the fullest, have no regrets, cherish those around you, forgive as much as possible and always say, 'I love you'!