A life well lived, a person sorely missed
By all accounts, I found 2019 to be a crappy year. It was the year I lost my sister, Marsha, to a rare, incurable form of cancer. Early in 2019, prior to Marsha’s diagnosis, I was having lunch with Marsha. She was feeling unwell and doctors were implying that being a little more focused on diet and fitness would improve her prospects.
Over plates of sushi we discussed a plan to tackle that. I was training for my first ever Half-Ironman Triathlon and I knew I’d be at the gym on a regular basis. Marsha, a member of the same gym, agreed to join me a couple of days a week for swimming. She also planned to start a sensible diet plan that focused on reducing calories and carbs. She started these fitness and diet plans with vigor. We had fun seeing each other in the pool and we had fun texting each other with silly hashtags about her progress – #mybrotherthetrainer #nomorebagels #isthereapeeinpool?
None of this lasted long as Marsha’s health got worse instead of better. More swimming and fewer bagels was not going to cure my sister. I’m not going to give a play-by-play about the rest of Marsha’s 2019 story – suffice it to say that it pretty much sucked. Not a single day passes without my thinking about Marsha. And, now that her May 19 birthday is approaching (a National Holiday to Marsha’s friends and family!), I’ve been thinking about her even more.
Marsha was my little sister and I took a lot of pride about being the wise older brother who dispensed plenty of advice. The truth though, is that Marsha taught me a lot of things too. Some of those lessons are having a huge impact on me in 2020. My family and I have lost several older family members in the past few few months and we’re all watching COVID-19 change our ways of living – with all of these goings on, I’m frequently recalling values my sister left me with in 2019 and I’m applying those values to my life in 2020
Marsha’s 2020 Lessons to her Brother
Lesson #1 – Appreciate Yourself: Your life is precious, it’s fragile and you only have one of them. When you’re having a bad day at work, when your family members are creating stress for you, when you’re not sticking to your diet, when you’re not in the mood to exercise – be kind to yourself. The next minute of your life is your next chance to turn things around!
Lesson #2 – Appreciate Your Loved Ones: Be it friends, family, colleagues, neighbors – and yes, it’s ok to consider any and all of them your loved ones, their lives are precious and fragile too. Treat them with empathy, tell them how you feel about them and enjoy having them in your life. We’re all human beings which means that every day we are one day closer to the end of our lives. So, enjoy and appreciate the days you have with your loved ones.
Lesson #3 – Never Stop Looking to Improve: We ALL have things we want to improve in ourselves. It is never a bad day to exercise and it does not need to be training for a big event. Take a walk, try a basic yoga video, do some stretching, ride your bike around the block – anything is better than nothing! It is never a bad day to start eating better. Pick up a piece of fruit instead of candy, some carrots instead of chips, some water instead of juice. Very few of us have this down pat (I sure don’t) but a little thing here and a little thing there are better than nothing at all! It is never a bad day to exercise your brain. Read a book, do a puzzle, try 5 minutes of meditation – notice I’m not suggesting watching the news! That just makes my brain hurt these days! Five minutes a day, ten minutes a day – a little bit goes a long way.
Lesson #4 – Have a Positive Mindset: It is very hard for tomorrow to be better than today if you don’t think that tomorrow has any chance at being better than today. I think I’ve had more crappy days over the past 12 months than I’ve had in my prior 600 plus months, but if I looked hard enough (sometimes very hard) I was able to find at least one positive thing on each one of those crappy days – something I learned about the world, something I learned about life, something I learned about myself, something I could build on. The glass can always be viewed as half full and you can always make lemonade with lemons (especially if you can find a little sugar to pour into the mix)!
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Let me just be clear – I’m a human being just like you and I certainly don’t get this stuff right every day. In fact, when compared to everyone who might read this post, I’m probably mediocre at all of it. BUT, I certainly have not stopped trying and I pray that I have the strength to keep trying every day.
Thanks to my sister Marsha. I observed her behavior towards herself, towards others and towards life for over my 48 years as her brother. Was she perfect? Of course not. Was she terrific? Yes she was. And, having had her in my life taught me some valuable lessons that are helping me get through another tough year.