I’d Rather Live for Two

Special thanks to guest author, Comfort Zone Camp volunteer and Hello Grief Community member Danielle Taylor for sharing this story with us, and to her husband for sharing one of his favorite photos of Danielle.

Hi, I’m Danielle, and I’m a card-carrying member of the “That Wasn’t Supposed to Happen” club (also sometimes known as the “It’s Not Fair” club).  To be a member, you had to have been hit with a wicked curve ball – death stole someone it shouldn’t have.  Whether you’re a new member or a veteran, it’s nice to meet you.  And I’d like to apologize – our admission dues are far too high.

As a part of this club, it is typical to want to throw yourself on the floor like a child and throw a full scale temper tantrum, complete with kicking and screaming and wails of “It’s not FAIR!”  I have had many of those moments and trust me, I am not making light of them.  I think the feeling of injustice comes from the fact we structure our lives around the “supposed to be,” believing there is a natural order to the world.  See if this pattern rings any bells: You’re a child, you go to school, graduate, get a job, get married, have kids, lose your parents at a ripe old age, and then when you have grandkids, you, too, die at a ripe old age.  There are some variations allowed, but this is a fairly typical pattern of our life expectancy.

But once in awhile, the “supposed to be” doesn’t happen.  There is a rift in the natural order of things.  Children die before parents.  Parents die before grandparents.  Somebody dies when they weren’t “supposed to.”  Hence, the creation of our charming little club.  Membership benefits include total annihilation of those expectations.

So what do you with a truck load of shattered expectations about how the world works?  A lot of people choose to stop living right alongside their lost ones.  They feel guilty having fun, enjoying life, laughing or even smiling.  Maybe it’s the feeling of “why them and not me?”  Or maybe it feels like you don’t care enough about them or don’t miss them enough if you allow yourself a reprieve from grief.  Maybe there are far more complex reasons.

As for me, I saw things differently.  My world was shattered when my dad died, and against my will, I was inducted into “the club.”  My welcome letter included the disturbing announcement “You too, Danielle – you could die at any minute.”  It shouldn’t happen, but it could, without warning.  I was jolted to learn how unpredictable life can be and that I may not have another 30, 40, 50 years to fit in all the things I wanted to do.  I saw that the “supposed to be’s” don’t exist for everyone.

But I wasn’t ready to die.  My dad’s death wasn’t a table for two.  As much as I missed him, I knew his death would be even more pointless if I also gave up my life by refusing to live.  This is where my defiant streak kicked in.  At the end of my life (whenever that is), nobody was going to grieve that I barely lived.  No, they’d remember me as having squeezed every drop of enjoyment out of life while I had the chance. I want to live ten lifetimes of joy. If this is my only ride, I want to see as many beautiful things, feel as much joy and love, and celebrate life as much as I can.  I don’t want to meet God and say, “But wait, there’s so much more I still have left to do!”

I remember when I turned 30, I was filled with the most dreadful panic.  If I only lived as long as my dad, I only had 15 years to fit in an entire life’s worth of living.  My 20’s had disappeared so fast and I hadn’t even started living!  I had to get living FAST because I had a lot to do in a very unknown period of time.  So I did.  Before I turned 31, I had been kayaking looking for killer whales, I got scuba certified, I went to the Grand Canyon and Disneyland, and I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane.  I also bought my first house and got two new puppies.  I traveled to 4 different states by myself with nobody waiting for me on the other end.  Over the next few years, I traveled to Chicago, New York, Peru, Niagra Falls, and Fiji.  I had my dream honeymoon in Italy, watched an ocean sunset from a hot air balloon, rode horses, went parasailing, swam with dolphins, and did a 20-foot firewalk.  Yes, you heard me right – I walked across a bed of white hot coals without a single burn.  I even have the keychain to prove it.

In the midst of all this living, I can’t help but to think about my Dad.  He died so young and there was so much he didn’t get to see.  Don’t get me wrong, his life wasn’t empty, just too short, and he spent a large part of it raising two daughters and several foster daughters.  But when I find myself in a breathtaking place, part of my heart breaks knowing he’ll never get the chance to see what I’m seeing.  I can’t shake the feeling that he was robbed of so many of life’s pleasures.

So for him, I try to live for two, like women who are pregnant eat for two. All of the things he didn’t get to do or see, I do and see for us both.  I take him with me on every adventure, as if I could carry his soul in my backpack or on my shoulder.  When I close my eyes and marvel at this amazing world, I imagine that he’s standing next to me, seeing everything right alongside me, feeling the breeze on his face, the water on his feet, or the sun on his skin.

Yes sir, I’ll take a life for two, please.  And make it snappy, I’m in a dash…

This article was originally posted with an untitled poem by an unknown author. However, we have been informed that the poem is entitled “The Dash” and it is by Linda Ellis. Please check out this inspiring poem and other motivational messages by Linda Ellis on her website.

7 Comments:

  1. Heather said on February 17, 2011 at 10:20 pm ... #

    This was what I needed today! Thank you so much for this inspiring story. To live for two means so much more than just breaking down. I lost my mother in June 2009. My Best Friend and The most loving person you could ever meet. She died at a very young age. She will never se me get married or have children.. but I know she’s in heaven without pain makes me feel better. Although she was my life line to who lifted my spirits when things got bad. Now I needed to be the person to lift my own self up off this terrible world we sometimes live in. Thanks so much. Meant alot to me!

  2. Bill said on February 22, 2011 at 4:41 pm ... #

    What a lovely metaphor! So very well written and expressed. I could identify with the desire. I took a similar, but slightly different path. My living for two (I’m 79 now so I’m living for several)has been to be and do what they would have wanted to be and do. — None wanted to jump from a plane and I’m glad for that ;>) Thank you!

  3. Ashleigh said on March 10, 2011 at 2:32 pm ... #

    Danielle, Thank you for this article. It reminds us all of an important choice we have to make even though sometimes we don’t want to. I hate being “in the club”, but appreciate some of the ways it has made me more aware of life.
    Heather, I also prematurely lost my mother in June 2009! Her biggest desire was to have grandchildren and that did not happen before her death. Even though it is approaching two years since she has been gone, I miss her every day. Similar to Danielle’s article, I bring my mom with me many of the places I go, but not just mentally. My mom was cremated so I bring her ashes with me to weddings, funerals and vacations. My friends and family have been very understanding about the need to carry her box with me.

  4. Sara said on March 14, 2011 at 12:33 am ... #

    Thankyou so much Danielle! I know that my little sister definitely would want me to live as great and joyously as I could always. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that is truly what our loved ones whom have passed would want. This article is a great reminder.

  5. a grandaughter said on April 6, 2011 at 3:45 am ... #

    Exactly what I need to know I need to live. I will be living for the three of my loved ones I miss and my self as I go on in life.<3

  6. Kristin said on May 24, 2011 at 5:32 pm ... #

    Thank you so much for your inspiring article Danielle!! I am also part of “the club” and in spite of the pain and loss I have had to go through to get here, I am so grateful to be surrounded by a community of people who share in similar experiences of loss and grief.

    I lost my grandmother, father and mother all within 16 months of each other -my grandmother in late 2007 and my parents in 2008. My grandmother passed away just after her 90th birthday and though the loss was difficult, I fellt comforted knowing that she lived a long, full ife. She is and has always been my role model and inspiration in life. My Dad was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer just a few months after she passed. He passed away just 3 1/2 months after his diagnosis. Even before his passing, it was heartbreaking to see my dad deteriorate right in front of me. It broke my heart to see him in so much physical pain and it still brings tears to my eyes remembering the emotional toll his deterioration took on him. Within 6 1/2 months after his passing, my mom was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. Her battle was much shorter but still very painful for her, both physically and emotionally. She was so worried about her children and how we would move forward in life without both of our parents. Unlike my father’s illness when he had my mom to speak on his behalf as his medical advocate, I found myself in that position when my mom was sick and dying. I remember the rollercoaster of emotions as each doctor would either give a glimmer of hope or confirm our worst fears.

    Even now, I still feel that knot in my stomach as I think of those times. I’ve always been a positive person though and I believe that we can all find resiliency within ourselves when we need it most. Shortly after my mom passed I had my own cancer scare. As the radiologist was doing a pre-surgical procedure on me, she told me that “we all have the ability to be strong when need it most”. I agree. And going forward from the losses, I believe in living my life to the fullest. I miss my parents, grandmother and other loved ones who have passed on so much but I carry them with me wherever I go. I recognize that life is so short, precious, and I know that my loved ones would want me to fully experience life the way that they did in their own lives. I have learned that the entire landscape of life can be changed so drastically without warning so it is important to recognize the wonderful gift that we have in each new day.

    Thanks for sharing your inspiring story! My heart goes out to you and everyone else who has joined the club!

  7. Janet Macy said on December 24, 2011 at 9:11 pm ... #

    What a wonderful upbeat article. I’m reading this on Christmas Eve. I was sitting here lonely – just my husband and I.

    We have two children. Our son died just before his 16 birthday in an accident. It was not fair.

    I like your thought that life would be more pointless if you stopped living because your dad had.

    Right on!!! Thank you

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