On this day, 5 years ago, an acquaintance passed away. I wish I could say she was someone I was close to, but the reality is, we weren’t really good friends. Her boyfriend, and eventual husband, was childhood friends with my boyfriend, and eventual husband. We saw each other in passing and at social engagements on a fairly regular basis, but the reality was, we had nothing in common. She was much more domesticated than I was and she had a level of confidence I couldn’t comprehend or process. Not surprisingly, we never really became friends, we just hung out when our husbands hung out and even then, it was at a superficial level.
What I remember most about her is her obsession with kids and motherhood. Even though she had a graduate degree and a good job, nothing mattered more than being a mom, and a stay-at-home mom at that. I totally judged her. Once she gave birth to her daughter, she followed through, and quit working to be home with her new baby. Again, I totally judged. But from there, things spiraled. She got sick and diagnosed with a terminal disease when her daughter was about 6 months old and she passed about 8 months after that. It was one of the most horrific things I have ever witnessed, and I just witnessed it from a distance.
Years later, I gave birth to my son. For those that have had a kid, you’ll recall there is a period afterwards where you are just sitting looking at this little baby thinking “what the fuck did I do.” But I then started reflecting on the levity of the situation; on the fact that I just brought life into this world and that I am responsible for this human for the rest of my life basically. That the relationship I have with this human could dictate his future, his happiness, and his ability to navigate the world and have healthy relationships and fulfilling endevors.
I had a new determination to live, but more importantly to live without regret. A realization that this child is my legacy and I wanted to enable him to be the best person he could be. And that lead me back to my widowed friends wife. I had just experienced one of the most pivotal moments in my life, and I thought of someone who I didn’t even really know? It was so strange, but in that moment, her confidence, her wisdom about the importance of motherhood just encompassed my whole being. I thought about how if I only have 6 months to feel the level of happiness, joy and contentment that I felt holding my son in my arms, that 6 months would not be littered with back to work anxiety, especially to go do something I didn’t love.
The reason I write this today is because this year, the anniversary of her death comes at an awkward time in my life. I am vetting my professional options, and it’s a trigger for regret of leaving the workforce in the first place. I calculate how much money I would have earned, and think about how liberating it sounds to have only professional obligations for several hours a day. I am networking with people younger, smarter and way cooler than I ever was and wonder why anyone would ever want to work with my old ass. I miss the relationships, the day-to-day banter, and the challenges of work. But then today happened. I woke up and saw the date and immediately thought of her. I thought about what she would say about my situation, and it remind of me how precious time is and how short our lives really are.
As her family remembers her today, they have no idea that some random person like me is also reflecting on her life. It is a tragedy that can never be justified, but through her tragedy, through her life and her values, I gained a perspective that has provided me with the best 3 years of my life. I am so thankful to have crossed her path and so devistated that I now cannot tell her directly that she was totally right and I was wrong. November 3rd will always be a day to remember the importance of family, love and life. I will also remind myself to be grateful for every breath I take and every hug I get with my son. As a tribute to her life, I will never take mine for granted.