During those months, she taught me more about the meaning of life than I had learned in years. It has been 12 years since her passing but the pain of her departure has not diminished. Grief is like a wave, ebbing and flowing.
On some days, it overwhelms me while on other days I smile remembering how lucky I was to have known her.
What follows is a summary of the valuable LIFE lessons I have learned from her untimely DEATH.
Things are just things. Too much time and money are spent on keeping up with the latest fashion and techno gadget trends as we work harder just to buy more stuff. This obscene desire to purchase the latest designer shoes and jeans is fuelled by big corporations telling us that their stuff will make us look and feel sexier.
We spend too many of our hard-earned dollars on items that will only serve as a status symbol because an immature inner voice tells us that we are only worthy if we can afford the pricey items.
The best things in life aren’t things at all. Jackie was an avid shopper who had expensive tastes, a trait that she inherited from her mother. She loved to buy designer bags and shoes. She was always the first to buy the newest trends in technology, fashion, even household appliances.
When she passed away, all her designer bags, pricey shoes and high-tech gadgets were sorted into bags to be either donated or tossed. No one discussed the fine quality of her shoes or bags. Indeed, the sole topic at hand was how to dispose of them.
She was not remembered for the fancy items in her closet or how many Apple products she owned; rather, she was remembered for how she made others feel. At her funeral, her many friends from every walk of life recounted their favorite memories with her. Nobody at any time mentioned her material items.
Memories will always be more valuable. Love your body but eat the fish tacos. As a society, we spend too much time obsessing over our bodies. Corporations spend millions in order to convince us to try another fad diet or workout plan.
Sadly, few people actually love their bodies just as they are. Gazing in the mirror, you may wish in vain that you were thinner, more toned or curvier in places. Yet, in the end, all that is moot. The body is but a vessel to carry you through life. How you look should be far less significant to you, plus how you critique your own body should be far less cruel.
Do you punish yourself for eating poorly and see exercise as a punishment rather than a gift. You only get one body and one life in that body so eat the fried chicken and thank your body for being strong enough to support you. Ultimately, it won’t matter if you sport a six-pack or six belly rolls.
Jackie was the fittest women that I have ever met. She consistently trained hard and always watched what she put in her mouth. She ate “clean” and worked out whenever she got. Once she got sick, her body slowly deteriorated until she was barely skin and bones. She was desperate to have a normal appetite again and gain weight. Her frequent attempts to hold down her food by smoking marijuana were all to no avail.
In the hospital, she was so wracked with pain from her bones protruding out of her small frame that she found it excruciating to sit or lay down. She would often lay on foam padding to ease the pain and when her appetite allowed, we ate fried chicken, hoping they would help her gain weight. She wished in vain that she could gain weight.
She would have given anything to have belly rolls. Eating Popeye’s friend chicken with her became one of my favorite memories. No longer did I obsess over how many calories were in each bite. Instead, I chose to be grateful for my healthy appetite, health, and belly rolls.
Listen more than you talk. What would you do differently if you knew your days were numbered? When did you last ask someone about their day and truly listened to their answer instead of figuring out what to say next.
What if I knew it was the last conversation I would have with that person? Would I listen more intently? We are often so busy with our own inner mental chatter that we miss out on the precious moments right in the here and now. All of Jackie’s closest friends and family would agree that she listened with intent. Jackie truly cared about what was transpiring in your life. That didn’t change when she got sick. Despite the unfair hand that she was dealt, she never stopped asking about your day and listening to your response.
Laughter is the best medicine. Many days I want to scream or throw a tantrum about my bad day. Some days I do just that, then I recall Jackie’s love of life in the face of her fateful battle with cancer.
I remember all the times we laughed as I was wheeling her down the hospital hallway pretending to be a train and making train noises, I remember her telling jokes even on her worst days and I remember laughing about the smallest, most insignificant things. I remember those happy moments more often than I remember the bad days.
My last memory of Jackie is of her laughing. I had no idea then that it would be the last time that I saw her. Yet, I thank God daily that the last moments we shared were spent in laughter. She passed away the next day and I often think about how much physical pain she suffered that night and despite it all, she still found reasons to smile.
I think of those last moments together often. While my bad days pale in comparison to what she endured, I remember Jackie’s enormous grace and contagious humour, then I try to find something to laugh about.
Perspective is a gift. Death is a tragic wake-up call reminding us that nothing is permanent. This moment in time is all you have so do not squander it by fretting about all that you lack. Rather, embrace all that you have. We often gain perspective too late in life. Sadly, it can take the death of a loved one to remind us about the importance of our life in the moment. I am forever grateful for all the lessons that Jackie taught me and the invaluable gift of perspective.
Yes, I miss my dear friend Jackie but knowing her incredible impact on everyone who crossed her path always makes me smile. Indeed, we are all better off for having known her.
Let us never forget the value of being alive.