This blog has been nagging me to write it for a few weeks now. I find that every idea or topic I get in my head recently decides it wants to be a blog, puffs itself up bigger than the other ideas, runs round and round and round my head, and wakes me up in the morning…until I get it out and share it. So now it’s this one’s turn.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how we attribute meaning to our lives and the lives of people around us. After Elizabeth Taylor died I read a number of articles and blogs about her life and about how much meaning and value she had based on all the years she had lived, all the things she had done, all the ways she had been recognised (as in awards or as an ‘icon’, etc)…..and all the marriages she has had. It’s easy with someone like that or someone very elderly to attribute meaning and value to their life…and not feel they or we were ripped off by a death too early.
But what happens when we’ve lost a parent ‘too young’ to an illness, a disease or an accident? It can be really difficult when we think someone has died before they should and from what I’ve observed a big part of what goes on here is that we feel they didn’t get to have enough life, they didn’t get to do all the things they should or the things they wanted to. That there just wasn’t ‘enough’ of their life. And the sense of injustice is a great source of pain and confusion.
How do we attribute meaning to life?
Often we see a life as having been ‘enough’ simply by the number of days it has ticked off. If you hear of someone dying at 94 there isn’t a sense of injustice. Not because you know the details of what life meant to this person or the impact they had on the world, but simply because they seem to have had their fair share of time.
Is this really the best way to measure life?
I don’t think it is. Not at all. It isn’t the way I measure the lives around me. The problem with seeing things this way – that it’s about the time you’ve had – is that when someone you love dies younger than you think they should (in some cases very, very young) to believe that they didn’t get to do enough, see enough, be enough, or contribute enough, is to strip meaning from their life. The thought that if something was to happen to me tomorrow, or next month, or next year, and for the people around me to say that it’s a waste, or a pity, or that I had so much left to do, is terrible to me. It’s the last thing I would want. Is that how you want to be remembered? For what you didn’t do rather than what you did? For what you weren’t rather than what you were?
I believe that every life has value, worth, meaning and makes a difference in this world. And I believe that no life has more meaning or value than any other, regardless of it’s length. Your life today has no more or less meaning that your greatest idol, or than the most famous person you can think of, or than the woman next door who owns 12 cats and hasn’t left the house in 3 years. Whether a life lasts 100 years, or 60 years, or 18 years, or not even long enough to open it’s eyes and see the world for the first time – I believe that every single life has just as much meaning and purpose as any other and touches this planet just as much, even though it might not always be easy to see it.
If you measure life by time you take for granted that you are guaranteed a certain number of years, which you absolutely aren’t.
If you measure life by time you strip meaning from the value of a life that was ‘too short’.
If you measure life by time you will struggle even more with the death of people you love who don’t live till they are 94, which can be a lot of them.
If you measure life by time you are missing the real beauty of life and the real beauty of the lives that have touched you and the lives you have touched.
If your parent or someone who love has died younger than expected i.e. of anything but old age, know that their life had value, meaning and tremendous worth just as it was.
Have a think about your own life, and the reality that you don’t know how long it will last….and think about how you want to be remembered – for the time you lived or for the heart you had?
And look at the life of someone you love who you have lost. Was it your parent? Another family member? A friend? A partner? No matter how old or young they were, or the circumstances of their death, know that their life had meaning and value just as it was. Know that they did have enough time to make a difference, that they did enough, that they were enough. More than enough. And don’t let anyone tell you any different.
They touched your life didn’t they? And maybe that was all the difference they needed to make.
As always I’m only an email away if you have any questions or comments. Feel free to share this or any of my blogs with anyone you think might find them useful.