font-family: 'Arizonia', cursive; Michael Stichauf - "As I understand it now...'til it changes": Tell your loved ones NOW!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Tell your loved ones NOW!

ver the last two months, I’ve suffered through two deaths, stunning in their suddenness and devastating in their consequences, which have brought me to write this post. Life never ceases to amaze me, it’s ability to render me humble, by sneaking up and smacking me in the back of the head! It’s unfortunate that we learn so many things, as the result of events that occur, which we have no control over.

If you asked the friends whom I grew up with, what one of my flaws would be, they would probably say, “Well, Michael’s the kind of guy who cares too much.” Now, you might be asking yourself, “What does that mean, ‘...cares too much’? How could “caring” be a bad thing?” Well, caring, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. Unfortunately, many people don’t care about anything. However, caring becomes a problem when it becomes consuming and it affects your life. Children tend to learn about moderation, as they grow up, by going from one extreme to another before they find a balance with many things. They then take those lessons with them to live the rest of their lives. Some of us don’t find that balance with some issues, though. It never occurred to me that there was a problem with, “caring about people” who were a part of my life. Like most teenagers, I had my “crushes” on girls and consequently, was crushed when they decided that they no longer felt the same way I did anymore. I don’t know, maybe I didn’t realize that I smothered people with the way I cared about them. I’m not sure what the psychology is here, but that’s the kind of person I am.

As a result of the way I care about those close to me, death is an issue that causes great anxiety and incredible fear. Believe me; I know I’m not special when it comes to death. I don’t want to convey that feeling. We all handle death in our own unique ways. I’m just trying to convey my thoughts about the issue and what I’ve noticed since the two that have just occurred in my life.

Rafael Rios
One of the things that have caused me great grief is the suddenness of both of these deaths. The first death was my good friend, Rafael. I should say, my “brother”. Rafael was like a brother to me. When I met Rafi, twenty-five years ago, he was the older brother that I didn’t have. He helped guide me through some things that were causing me problems. He was a dynamic man who had the ability to attract people to him, almost like a pied piper. I hadn’t seen Rafi for about ten years when, in October of 2012, I heard a voice from around a corner in a grocery store, and IMMEDIATELY recognized it as Rafi! He had moved out of state for some time and had recently moved back in. We picked up our relationship where we left off. Unfortunately, one night in May of this year, a disease that Rafi had contracted 30 years ago, suddenly and unexpectedly, took his life. He ended up “incommunicado” from the moment he entered the emergency room! There was no way to talk to him and he passed nine days later without regaining consciousness.

My cousin Bridget is the second death that I’ve been dealing with lately. Bridget was three years younger than I was. Like my brother Jeff, Bridget was the middle child of three and they were both the mischievous ones of the children.
Cousin Bridget
Bridget was always “bucking” authority and, for the longest time, seemed to have a zest for life. She could be the life of the party when she wanted to be. Unfortunately, life became difficult for Bridget over the last year or so and suddenly, one night, we received a phone call that Bridget was dead!

When I think back over the month prior to Bridget’s death, there were a few times that I wanted to call her and say some things to her that I was hoping would help her get through what she was going through. Yet, as life tends to be, we decide that things can be put off ‘til tomorrow. “I can always call tomorrow. I’m a little busy right now.” Usually, this is the case. We call “tomorrow” and we say the things we want to say. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out this way and it didn’t work out this way with Bridget. I was devastated when I heard she was dead. Devastated yes, because she had died but devastated also, because I didn’t get to say the things that I wanted to say to her. No, I’m not under the illusion that she might be alive today if I had been able to talk to her. I know that no one has that kind of power. I was upset that I didn’t get to tell her how much she was loved and that she had an eight-year-old boy who thought that the sun rose and set in her eyes. I wanted her to know that she had a whole lifetime left to see that boy grow into a wonderful man because she was his Mother. Precisely because she was his Mother! I also wanted Bridget to know how much she meant to me and my family because of the way that she helped my brother Jeff when he went through his tough times and how she never judged him no matter what!

It’s the things that you wished you'd said, that you can no longer say because they are gone. It’s such a definite “thing”. You can’t bring them back. In regards to Rafael, I initially was able to tell him how much it meant to me that he helped guide me through tough times. Yet, when I was told that he was unable to communicate with anyone, there were so many other things that I wanted him to know. Sure, little “tricks” that counselors try to teach you may help. You can write a letter to your beloved and put it in the casket with them at the burial. Or, you can just keep it, thinking that they know what it is that you wrote. Yet, these things aren’t adequate substitutes for the real thing... telling your loved one just how much you loved them.

That’s the point of my piece today. Everyone should take a minute, every day, and let someone who you love know how much you love him or her. Tell your Mother or Brother that they mean the world to you. Don’t ever take for granted, the fact that you can tell them tomorrow. As we all know, we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Let’s all live in today and appreciate the people, no matter how much they might aggravate us, who are the most important in our lives. Tell them that you love them. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you didn’t get a chance to say the things you wanted to say!
My Mother
That’s, “As I understand it now...’til it changes”.
Thanks for reading.
Michael K. Stichauf