Don't get me wrong; I am fairly comfortable dealing with grief. Or rather, I'm willing. Anger is only one of the many perfectly normal feelings I experience at funerals. It usually takes turns with sadness, disbelief, gratitude, and initial attempts at acceptance. I've had more practice than I would prefer; 38 seems too young to have attended as many funerals as I have. Part of is the nature of my work, and part of it is just...life, I guess. The risk of caring is losing, which is a risk I am always willing to take.
One of the wonderful and terrible things about loss is it always reminds me of what's important. Appreciating the people we care for. Being our best selves. Enjoying life. Not sweating the small stuff. Cliché cliché cliché.
It also reminds me of the urgency of certain things. The importance of action where action is needed. I've attended funerals precipitated by addiction, alcoholism, schizophrenia, heart disease, cancer, suicide, and murder. Often preventable things, if the right intervention (or perhaps many daily interventions) had occurred. A couple times I was lucky enough to go to funerals that came at the end of a long and happy life. Those are my favorite, and the only ones I'm not pissed off about.
I don't say all this to be macabre, though it's starting to seem that way as I write. I actually mean to end with a hopeful message, so I promise it's coming. Partly, this writing is a reminder and a call to action to myself. I'm still processing and thinking out loud, so I thought I'd share these thoughts with you. My work is so important to me, but it's also just flat out important. I am so grateful to get to help people do more than just not die; I get to help people get better and live happier lives. That's an amazing honor and a tremendous responsibility.
My friend died unexpectedly of a heart attack. He was in his early 50's. He was making efforts to improve his health, I hear. Sometimes I get so focused on addiction and eating disorders- because they seem so big and so urgent- that I have to be reminded that slow killers are still out there, lurking, waiting, chipping away at wonderful people. And sometimes, someone like me could've helped. It feels arrogant and self-serving to say that dietitians can save lives, but we all know by now what a huge role that diet plays in health. I'm not taking responsibility or "what if"-ing, but it's a hell of a call to action. It makes me proud to get to do something so important, but also just bitterly angry for those we've already lost.
This is a call to action for both of us. Me and you. Is there something you need to be taking more seriously? Is there something you need to be taking less seriously? Is there something you've been telling yourself you need to do, something you plan to do that you've been putting off? Does your life depend on it? You are worth the effort. We need you as long as we can have you.
"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."
Let's get to work. Let me know how I can help.
He wasn't someone we saw often, but he had a larger-than-life personality and a warm and unforgettable heart. The first time we met, I thought he was a jackass. I've never been more wrong about a person, and I'm grateful for the small roles we got to play in each other's lives. I will raise a glass and shed a tear for him at Rangers Opening Day, the one place we always knew we'd see him.