These have been interesting times for sure, full of ups and downs, challenges and triumphs. I’ve almost died twice during the past 11 months. I’ve been through a bunch of medical tests and procedures, a couple of surgeries and lots of physical therapy.
Through it all, I have had the support of my family and friends. I’ve always had hope that tomorrow would be a better day. I have been given many opportunities to be grateful, especially for the people in my life.
Among those times that give us reasons to reflect upon and appreciate the people around us is when we lose someone. My sister-in-law, Laura, recently passed away. She was only 60 years old. She died of a devastating neurological disease called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), a very rare condition.
There is no cure for PSP, no hope for recovery, just a slow, devastating loss of the brain’s ability to control body movement and thoughts.
Between Covid and my own health issues, I didn’t get to see Laura as often as usual during the past few years. Each time we did get together, the change I saw in her was noticeable and heartbreaking. She came to visit me in the hospital last summer after I had a cardiac arrest, and it was the first time I had seen her for a while. I was stunned by how much the disease had affected her, and I cried after she left.
My sister-in-law was one of those full-of-life people. She lived for her family and friends. She had a great sense of humor, was kind and thoughtful. When we see people—especially someone we know and care about—go through struggles, it makes life seem so unfair.
With these struggles, though, come the uplifting, inspirational aspects of life that bring us hope. My brother Paul retired from his job so that he could take care of Laura full time. The care and devotion he showed his wife was amazing and awesome, an inspiration. Care giving became harder and harder, but he didn’t back down from the challenge and lovingly took care of her at home.
Through it all, he managed to come visit me when I was in the hospital and at home. I know it was a sacrifice for him. He’s had his own health issues that he has been trying to navigate.
So why am I sharing this story with you? We don’t know how much time we have with those around us. Some people come into our lives for only brief moments, maybe not even an hour or a day. Others are in our lives for years or decades. No matter the length of time, each person who crosses our path has something to offer us or might need our help in some way.
We can so easily get caught up in our own troubles that we don’t take time to realize that others might be struggling too.
Sometimes the person standing behind you on the line at the grocery store just needs a smile or a kind word to help them through the day. Maybe a co-worker is struggling with personal problems that are making life difficult, and treating them with some kindness can help them get through a tough day at work.
We might never know the impact we can have on others, but that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that we try to be there when they need us.
Life is short. I’m probably more aware of this than most because of the health experiences I’ve had. My advice: be kind, be supportive, appreciate the people in your life, and remember everyone is going through something. Everyone has a story. Everyone needs a smile or a kind word.
Embrace those you love while the opportunity is here. And when you lose a family member, friend, or someone else in your life circle, cherish the memories.
“The simple act of caring is heroic”—Edward Albert
Note: The photo included with this post is from a fishing trip I took on the Great South Bay off Long Island with my family, including my brother and sister-in-law.