I remember seeing my dear friend, V., lying in a coffin in a California funeral chapel. She lay still and unmoving. That particular day had an everlasting and disproportionately painful impact on me. It had been supremely hard to witness that scene.
Life Gets in the Way
You see, in V.’s final years, we communicated less and less. We only spoke once in two years or less. I remember V. calling me on New Year’s Day once from New York City and telling me that she was down with a really bad case of the flu. This confluence of a holiday and illness had caused her to stay at home instead of going into the office. Then there was another time when V. was at the office and in a rare occurrence, I called and we were able to speak on the phone for an extended period of time.
The thing is, just before her death, V. was taken from the office directly to the hospital. It was through a process of treatments and procedures that doctors and medical staff eventually realized that they couldn’t save her. It was time for her to leave this world.
V. was my age, still relatively young, at the time of her passing.
Success in Life
V. was successful in all the right ways. She went to law school, did her Masters at an Ivy League and qualified for the Bar in multiple jurisdictions. Her career was a shining example of success with judicial appointments in Singapore and then numerous positions at really prestigious U.S. law firms. At the time of her passing, she had just moved from the East Coast to the West Coast of the United States. She was studying for yet another qualification, the California Bar. She had already started working at a well-known law firm in San Francisco.
V. was an extremely hardworking individual. I had the privilege of knowing her from the time we were in the equivalent of senior high, to the day she died. We had been friends for several decades. Anyone who had V. working on their case, in whatever capacity, was extremely lucky, in my opinion. She gave 110%.
She never got married or had children. That was fully V.’s choice and in a sense, her destiny, to devote her life to the law. It seems, she had been happy with her choice to live her life through her career.
I have talked about work and its impact on us in https://sues.life/2021/06/20/change-and-the-workplace/
The Lesson in Death
So, then, what is the point of this post?
It is that V. left me a gift with her passing. It was her legacy. She gifted me with an appreciation for life. The preciousness of life and of ourselves. And the thing was, that it was in mourning her and going through the process of letting go, that I reached that realization.
V. passed away a few years before Covid-19. But already, she had taught me that no one can look after our health the way we should. We have a responsibility to look after ourselves, our body and our health, within our means and to the best of our ability. This, despite everything else we have going on in our lives.
Work should get done. A career and work are essential to our survival but we need to take a fraction of time to look after our health. I had been working a lot, making excuses for not going to the doctor, when I received news of V.’s passing. The thing was that I hadn’t been listening to my body enough, despite my family’s pleas. I was ignoring the means to keep myself healthy and alive.
Hopes and Aspirations
I knew I wanted to live longer. There was much to look forward to. And yet, I had let work, other people and past trials in my life, dictate how healthy I kept myself.
After V.’s death, I had a health-scare myself. But luckily, I had taken interim measures after V’s funeral to circumvent devastating consequences.
Today, I am much more aware of the preciousness of life. I know that my body is not the same as it was in my 20s. So, everything I do manage to do to maintain and improve my health is for myself. Not for vanity. Not to please others.
In fact, I know I have to lead a certain lifestyle in order to live longer and healthier. I am much more bold about stating my needs. I research information, read data and statistics, cross-reference various sources to confirm that the decision is wise. And then I do what I need to do. I do this much more than when I was in my 20s and life seemed to stretch before me.
With Covid-19 and its mutations, everything that V.’s death had taught me, has been magnified. Now, as I miss my loved ones who live far away, I want to keep myself healthy. I just want to hug my dearest family and friends some day. The fragility of life has come home for me.
We are mere mortals. While we often behave like we are invincible, the truth is that we and life itself, are fragile. We should respect this fragility and then we should make it our mission to care for our health and well-being. We should do this for ourselves. In turn, we care for those we love and those who love us.