I was reminded by my Facebook memories that it was today, in 2012, I was told of the passing of a very dear lady that I’d known all of my married life. I read what I wrote. It said, “I received the news today that a very special person in my life passed away. I had known her for 35 years. She was a friend, a confidante, like a mom to me…anything I needed her to be when I needed someone. The world, but especially the lives of those who knew her personally, were touched in a special way. Bev, you were loved and you will be missed.”
Those words were said at a time of grief, but I left a great deal out. This woman was my lifeline when I had no family of my own around. I was just getting to know my husband’s family and not feeling I was making a great impression. She lived next door when we were living with my in-laws. She called me Honey from the first day. There was a warmth and acceptance about her. Bev could get you to talk about anything and considering it was a time in my life when I needed it the most, she helped me keep my sanity and stay on track. I really did consider Bev an angel on earth sent to help me, but I know I wasn’t the only one that she did help.
It made me think about how there have been some very special people in my life that just showed up at the right time and became acquaintances, then friends, and then so much more; the closest thing to family without actually being family. We have all had that friend that we joked about being the sister from another mother or the brother from another father. The surrogate grandmothers that filled in with your kids when their own couldn’t be there. The substitute mother or father because your parents were gone or incapable of being close and you just needed someone in your life filling that role. No, they aren’t blood related. Sometimes they are related by marriage, but however they came to be in your life, you know that you are a better person because of that relationship. You can’t imagine your life without them.
There have been times I think I might have filled some of those roles for other people too. If so, it makes me happy to think so. I wonder if we ever know how many lives we have touched in this way. Did you have a close friendship with an elderly person missing their grown children or grandchildren? Were you the stay at home mom that showed up at school for all the parent events that other working parents couldn’t attend? The mom all your teenager’s friends could talk to? The friend there in good times and bad? The dad who coached or the grandmother who volunteered in a classroom? It’s become more and more important that these roles, easily filled before because families lived with or near each other, are widely available to fill due to distance or careers. For some kids, the parent/grandparent luncheon days are painful, knowing that no one will be there for them. The father/daughter dances, the school plays or musicals, and the many other events that for most children are not a problem, become just another reminder that they have to go it alone or can’t go at all. Our relationships with the lonely elderly neighbor who just wants to spend a little time while talking over a cup of hot chocolate or tea, have gone to the wayside. What’s the longest conversation you’ve ever had with a child that was obviously hurting? For that matter, not only are we neglecting those things, but also our deeper relationships with friends. People don’t seem to have the time, or if they do, it’s not a priority to maintain those relationships. There are plenty of people walking around filled with guilt or regret because someone they cared about went through a terrible time and they weren’t there for them.
It takes so little time to reach out and let someone know you are thinking of them. A phone call. Stopping in on the way to somewhere else. Asking someone if they’d like to go along. Inviting another child or two with no parent present to sit with you and your child at lunches. Checking on someone you know has been ill or hospitalized. A letter. An email. A text. A message. A few minutes that could change a person’s day, week, or even life. I have heard people say that they made a bargain with God to not take their own life if someone, anyone, reached out to them as a sign that they are not forgotten.
I guarantee that every one of us knows someone battling an illness, depression, going through grief, or are just plain lonely that want to hear from us. They need that contact, that reassurance, showing we are still there for them. Offer a few words of consolation, do an act of kindness, or give them a hunk of your time. It honestly doesn’t take much. Think about it and see who comes to mind. It’s all around us. The only thing we have to do is be open to it. Have there been opportunities that you passed on before that you could now take advantage of? It’s those opportunities that will add so much to your life, enrich your soul, and give you a sense of happiness for having done something good. It is often in giving that we receive. I know I have a few calls and messages to make right now.