Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Death knows no season
As most of us are cleaning up from the Christmas holiday or continuing celebrating Hanukkah, I am taking pause to think about the many friends and loved ones who have passed through this life. Unfortunately, this December I learned of an unusually high number of unexpected deaths. Checking in with a close friend who is a Hospice nurse, I found I was not alone.
Not that I believe we really get to pick when we naturally pass, but people who work with or care for the elderly concur that many people will wait until after the holidays to pass, so as not to cause undo grief for their loved ones. My Hospice nurse friend told me that this year the pre-holiday death toll was much higher than is the norm.
Personally, within a week in mid-December, I learned of four untimely deaths.
First a former classmate let us know her infant granddaughter had succumbed to health issues. Tragic.
Just a few days later, a friend let me know his 20-something-year-old son had committed suicide. Devastating.
Next it was my husband’s uncle – just ten days shy of his 90th birthday – a little easier to accept but no less excruciating for those he left behind. Painful.
And then more recently, I received news our former Nevada City Police Chief died after suffering a heart attack while travelling abroad. Shocking.
I was struck by the reality that these four lives covered the gamut – infant, young adult, late life and elderly – a reminder of something I learned years ago when my former mother-in-law died unexpectedly: this precious thing we call life can come to an end in an instant – anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Not to be too morbid, as most of us are still surrounded by loved ones enjoying this holiday season, but simply to serve as a reminder that time with those we care about is, indeed, precious and not to be taken for granted.
This holiday season was the shortest possible number of days — just 26 — between Thanksgiving and Christmas. My husband and I took a truly short vacation early in the month and then we spent two weeks trying to make up for the lost shopping and work time. I tried hard to hold onto the feeling of complete relaxation. We spent a mere three days soaking up some much-needed sunshine, walking on a warm beach and swimming in the ocean. We reconnected and embraced our relationship. We took stock of where we are as individuals, and where we are as a couple, and recommitted to taking care of us.
It is so easy to forget to take care of our most important relationships — those we count on to be with us through good times and bad. My husband and I are both guilty of going in separate directions, sometimes forgetting to circle back to each other.
It is easy for him to point at me, the social butterfly. I admit to saying “yes” too often. Anyone who knows me well, knows I have a malady known as FOMO (fear of missing out). I do not deny it. I have acknowledged it many times. As a result, I spend many evenings out of the house, and plenty of time doing things he is not interested in doing and sometimes I do things that do not include him. That can be a relief on his part, but it can also leave him feeling alone. Overall, he does not begrudge me.
In turn, he has also assembled a busy life. He has his job. In addition, he coaches high school football (which goes way beyond the season, in case you were wondering). He is a runner, which is six days a week commitment. In addition, he plays golf whenever possible, which serves as both exercise and quality time with family members and friends alike.
And I do my best to encourage him to continue taking part in activities — most of the time!
Our busy, sometimes separate lives only become an issue when we forget to add each other to the list every now and again. We share our calendars, so no one is surprised by a missing spouse at an important event. What we were not doing, was putting our relationship on the docket and now we will be doing that as well.
Relationships with those we love – family and friends alike – take effort. Everyone wants to feel valued. No one wants to feel like an obligation instead of a choice.
As I looked over at my husband the other night, watching him chatting with my mother in law (who is in her early 90s), I couldn’t help but think about the reality that his time with her is becoming short. But realized that is true about every person I know.
As this year, and decade end, I resolve to look around and make sure those I love, know I love them. Life is too short to let unresolved issues or guilt define us. Let us surround ourselves with those we value and those who value us. Death knows no season. It can come calling in an instant — anyone, anytime, anywhere—and when it does, I want to remember the departed with loving, fond memories. Isn’t that the point?
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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