We recently heard some horrible news about a family we knew from our school and church back in Chicago. The husband, a young and fit 42-year old, died unexpectedly last week, leaving a wife, four young children and a community reeling from the loss. I’ve been shaken by the tragedy myself; heartbroken for the family and stunned by the cataclysmic rupture to their seemingly secure future.
Between that news and what I wrote about here, I’ve been thinking a lot about life and loss lately. I think loss has a specific role to play in one’s lifetime. If it’s not so close as to tear apart the seams of your daily life, it becomes a trigger point for introspection: am I living the life I want to be?
I have a close friend who lost both her parents by the time she was a young adult. She once confided to me that she regularly questions her own mortality, measuring her life against the shortened years granted her parents. As a result, she travels often, experiencing as much of the world as she can with her husband and children.
“Why should I wait until we’re retired?” she has said. “I may be sick or gone by that time- better to give my children- and myself- these memories now, while I can.”
I know our own decision to move to Australia was borne of our belief in living a life without regrets. When P and I first began talking about a move down under, a refrain that continuously arose though our discussion was “We don’t want to ever regret that we never gave it a try.”
At the time, we were in the process of building a house for our family- what P would often refer to as our “Forever Home.” And while there is something lovely and stable and comforting in building a home for years to come, the timing felt off. In the process of working with architects and builders, the plans had grown unwieldy and in my eyes, we were going down a road that would close off other dreams and opportunities.
Ultimately, it felt wrong at the time and led us to question what we wanted out of life. And that led to a discussion of what we didn’t want from life- regrets because we didn’t listen to that quiet voice within.
I know many people questioned our move here- questioned its financial implications, its practicality and its effect on our children. To change midstream may have seemed drastic to others, but to us it felt right. It wasn’t an easy move, but it was one that has brought us closer as a family, giving us a unique lens though which to view our world.
It really doesn’t matter if your gut tells you to move across the world or to stay put within the warm embrace of your community, to change careers or to stay in your current profession, to have another child or to remain childless. What matters is to find the time to listen to the voice within- are you living the life you want?
Maybe you shouldn’t wait for tomorrow to find out.