|I want to lean into something very personal today because it is a message that too many of us are forgetting. And increasingly, too late is really TOO LATE.
Last week, my husband’s favourite uncle passed away. Lorne was 93, had been married to the love of his life for a few months shy of 70 years, and was staunchly proud of his military and curling careers. I believe he was the most decent father, uncle and friend one could ever claim to know.
The news of his passing was circulated on Facebook. Nearly all the cousins, second cousins and friends found out online. Naturally, condolences and sad hearts were everywhere.
I pieced together a few things behind the scenes.
Lorne’s wife picked up the telephone and called their children and their immediate family. Yeah, the old-fashioned phone. One person at a time. It was the kids who passed everything along on Facebook. Let me be super clear. Those between 50 and 75 used Facebook to share the news. NOT the telephone.
I spoke to Lorne’s eldest sister, my mother-in-law. Truthfully, I didn’t get a word in edgewise because I am positive she believes that at nearly 97, she has the right to interrupt and hold court as she deems appropriate. Whatever.
My mother-in-law has been the matriarch of the whole clan all her life. She is the one who organized annual family reunions and remembered the birthdays and anniversaries of every person (and their kids and grands) with a card, a phone call, and often a basket of goodies. She is the one always at the centre of all family comings and goings. If anyone wanted to know anything, ‘call Doris’ was the common refrain.
NOBODY, not one of the kids, nephews, nieces, grandkids, or second cousins, called Doris to share the news of the passing of her brother. Yes, she heard from Lorne’s wife. On the telephone. But nobody else. Then, she did what she always does. She flew into calling everyone on her telephone tree. Funny thing. Too many had not kept her current with their latest cell phone numbers. And when she did reach a ‘good’ number, she got a recorded message.
She was fuming by the time she finished trying to track everyone down. Every one of us offspring, between the ages of 50 and 75, over the past twenty years, had expressed umpteen times to her that we would drive the ten hours to two days to see her. And not even 2% of us had followed through on our promises. So here she was, facing the death of her third sibling. Alone. Nobody comforting her, thinking of her or reaching out to her.
Now, all of us can play the martyr card at any time. And it seems we pull that card even more frequently as we age. Let me spell out my point here.
Remember this, especially if you are like far too many of us and live online, keep to yourself in real life, and don’t venture much because it is too far, inconvenient, or expensive. When our best-before date is called, our time is really up. There is no chance of a do-over.
Looking into a coffin, delivering a eulogy, staring at a granite slab, writing a note to heaven and even pasting hearts all over our social feed DOES ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Sure, it might make us feel better. But it does NOTHING for the relationship we had with the deceased.
Life doesn’t promise us endless tomorrows. If we wait until “later” to reconnect in person, that “later” far too often never comes. Trust me, the pain of regret is one emotion we all want to avoid experiencing.
Here is your Late homework for this week.
(Yeah, I am really giving you homework!)
We’re all grinding, chasing dreams, scaling mountains—figuratively and sometimes literally. And it has become far too easy to lose touch with people who matter to us. Don’t wait until it really is too late.
For your well-being, remember the cheerleaders along the route. Your immediate family, friends, and your extended family.