We are all pulled in a million different directions every day, and in the chaos it can be difficult to take the time to slow down and appreciate the ones you love. Let’s face it, some days it is just easier to say, “I’ll do it tomorrow.”
However, as I have grown older and lost people that I love, I have unfortunately come to understand with increasing awareness that tomorrow is not guaranteed. It is such a simple concept, yet at times incredibly difficult to keep in our awareness. Don’t wake up one day only to realize these moments have passed you by.
Whether you are looking to improve your health, relationships, career, or any other facet of your life it is important to remember that we may not always be given a tomorrow. Take action today.
In the last blog post and podcast I focused on the most common New Years Resolution that people make - Losing Weight and Getting Fit. We talked about goal setting methods and I shared tips to help you successfully implement a new fitness routine into your life. If you are still going strong after two weeks, then congratulations - keep up the great work! However if you feel as though you are struggling remember that we are only two weeks in the new year and there are still three hundred and fifty-one blank pages left in this year’s story. Don’t give up - even if you haven’t made as much progress as you would have liked by now. We are quick to set big goals for ourselves, and after a couple weeks you may be starting to discover that it is more difficult that you expected to fit these goals into your life in a realistic way. Don’t quit - that just means that you might need to modify your goals and keep pushing forward.
In the next podcast and blog I am going to share more resources that will help you stay on track and maintain your motivation - but for now stick with it!
Having said that, today I’m going to shift gears and discuss another common resolution that many of us have most likely made at one point or another, which is improving the relationships in our lives. I’d like you to keep in mind that despite the shift from the physical nature of the last blog/podcast to the more emotional topic that I am discussing this week, understanding that tomorrow is not guaranteed is a central concept to your success in both of these realms.
There are many different experiences I went through during the years in which I wrote CROSSROADS: My Search for Truth Through Music and a Lot of Red Wine that helped me learn the lessons that I try to keep in my awareness and apply to my everyday life. When I think about the concept that tomorrow is not guaranteed there are so many excerpts that I could choose to share, but I think the most relevant excerpts relate to the instances in which I was faced with the reality of losing someone important in my life. It is in these shocking moments that we become most aware of how life can change in the blink of an eye… and regret can last a lifetime. Today I'll be sharing a few excerpts from CROSSROADS that tell my story of how I became more aware that tomorrow is not guaranteed, and how I use that lesson to help improve the relationships in my life. You can listen to the excerpts that I have chosen in this week's podcast.
Excerpt from CROSSROADS (Page 66 - complete memoir now available on Amazon):
October 28, 2013 (Journal Entry)
Two days ago I was asked to perform at my first funeral - It terrified me! What if I messed it up? It’s not like I’d get a second chance, but I couldn’t say no to a family that I have known almost as long as I have known my own.
The silence was deafening as I looked out into the sea of familiar faces, every eye focused expectantly on me as I attempted not to simply recite a song, but to embody the depth of emotion I knew these words would provoke in each of them when they heard the familiar lyrics their grandfather, father, brother, uncle, and friend had sung to his wife for so many years. My legs trembled uncontrollably under the weight of the responsibility I felt, but my voice was strong as my gaze rested on his wife and I began to sing “Always” written by Leonard Cohen. Tears, smiles, and laughter filled the church as the words began to elicit memories for each of them.
I am honored I was asked to perform at such an important occasion for this family.
I'll be loving you, Always
With a love that's true, Always
When the things you've planned
Need a helping hand
I will understand
Days may not be fair, Always
That's when I'll be there, Always
Not for just an hour
Not for just a day
Not for just a year
But Always, Always
There are moments in life that forever alter your perception, and you will never be the same going forward - for me this was one of those moments.
Sadly, after performing at my first funeral it was only three months before I was asked to perform at my second funeral.
January 22, 2014 (Journal Entry p. 85)
Once again I have been reminded of what is important. The things that I have been struggling with have been consuming me.
My heart is heavy to hear of the passing of The Matriarch. I will never forget the powerful impact performing “Always” at her husband’s funeral had on me only a few short months ago, or the loving family that filled that little white church. They were extremely blessed. My thoughts are with them today.
I had already performed their wedding song, so when the family contacted me again they requested a traditional hymn. I chose Amazing Grace. At least this time it was a song you knew. That makes it a little easier, right?
January 24, 2014 (Journal Entry)
I send my love to all I see. Many times a day, I think, feel, and say the word love with heartfelt intentions.
Today I will sing at The Matriarch’s Celebration of Life. I will send my love out to the family through song. I will close my eyes and let the love that will fill the room guide my voice, and I will pay respect to a wonderful woman that was loved by many.
That was the first time I remember sitting down, collecting my thoughts, and visualizing the way a performance would go, but it is a habit I have embraced over the years. It is beneficial, especially when I expect a performance will be emotional.
I can still close my eyes and see my cousin, Jamie, sitting in the middle pew at the back of the church that day, listening intently as I sang “Amazing Grace.” He was the only one in the room that I not only thought of as family, but was my actual family. Despite the sporadic contact we had in recent years, Jamie and I shared a unique bond that was strengthened by the passion and solace that we each found in music…the kind of connection that requires no words, an unspoken understanding. He loved to sing.
As I stepped down from the pulpit Jamie made his way to me. “I was amazed by the emotion you put into your performance. It was beautiful.” I never would have dreamed that one year later that memory would replay in my mind as I contemplated the song I would perform at his funeral.
January 21, 2015 (Journal Entry p. 117)
It isn’t real…how could this have happened? Last night feels like a dream, or more like a nightmare. My brother’s voice through the phone, “Jamie shot himself…he didn’t make it. Can you go stay with Dad?” I couldn’t say anything except, “What? I don’t understand!” Will was in bed, but wasn’t asleep yet. He kept asking, “What’s going on, Mom? What happened?” How do you find the words to explain such a tragedy to your child? How could I look into his innocent, questioning eyes and help him make sense of something I haven’t begun to understand myself? I pulled him from his bed and fled to my parents’ house.
From the moment I performed at my first funeral my perspective shifted. I began to make a more concerted effort not to take one moment for granted with my loved ones, but it would be losing my cousin a year later that would have the most profound effect on me. Despite the tragic events surrounding his death, losing Jamie reminds me that I should never forget that tomorrow is not a guarantee.
If you’d like to listen to the excerpts from CROSSROADS that I’ve selected in their entirety and the complete story of how losing Jamie impacted my life, then you can listen to Tomorrow in Not Guaranteed on Apple Podcasts. This episode also includes my performance of “Always,” written by Leonard Cohen as well as “Just Breathe,” written by Eddie Vedder - the song I performed for Jamie.
As I mentioned earlier the complete memoir CROSSROADS: My Search for Truth Through Music and a Lot of Red Wine is now available and you can purchase it on Amazon if you would like to continue reading.
We have all lost people that we love along the way, and my hope is that as you read through some of the details of my story today it made you think of some of the loved ones that you have lost along the way, and it gave you the reminder not to take anyone in your life for granted.
Here are the questions that I pose to you this week:
Is there anyone in your life that makes you think, “I should give them a call - it’s been too long.”
Contact them today.
Do you ever find yourself half listening to someone because you are stuck in your phone?
Set your phone down and be present when you interact with your children and loved ones today.
How long has it been since you have said “I love you” to your parents, children, friends, or significant other?
Tell them that you love them today.
How long has it been since you have done something to show your loved ones how much you appreciate them?
Do something nice for them today, expecting nothing in return.
Taking the time to do these things will strengthen the relationships in your life!
I try to do a better job of remembering not to take even one day for granted, but I am guilty of getting caught up in my busy life just as much as anyone else. However, right now I am going to slow down and take a minute to reach out to the people that I love because tomorrow is not guaranteed.
“Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.”
~ Wayne Dyer