yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. –James 4:14
Earlier this week came a reminder of how important it is to live your life with more passion and less fear. Erlinda “Linda” Buenviaje Pineda, my mother’s eldest sister passed away.
Over the past few years, she struggled with lung cancer, and she finally succumbed to it. The last time I had seen Auntie Linda was 20 years ago, when I was living in the Philippines.
Auntie Linda was a cosmetologist in the Philippines. She was the person you went to if you needed your hair, nails, or makeup done before an event such as a wedding or debut.
I remember her always having a smile on her face, and always such a warm and giving heart. And yet with her radiant smile you would never know the struggles she faced for most of her life.
Of her nine siblings, she was the only one who didn’t immigrate to the U.S. Having followed her heart, rather than my grandfather’s bidding…Auntie Linda chose to marry in the Philippines, a decision that would keep her there while the rest of my uncles and aunts would later become U.S. citizens.
My aunt lived a hard life. It wasn’t very easy raising a family in provincial Philippines, where opportunities were scarce. She didn’t get much sympathy, and even her choice of who she married became a topic of gossip fodder.
For the rest of her life, she had endured the “I told you so…”, “You should have…”, “Why didn’t you…” advice that the well-intentioned yet less empathetic among us tend to dole out in these situations.
She received a lot more discouraging words even when encouragement was what she needed most.
There were people in her life that did try to help. I remember my mother doing her best to send clothing and other provisions whenever possible to help her sister out. It became a yearly ritual for my brother and I to pack up any clothes we outgrew so that Mom could box them up and send them to my cousins in the Philippines.
Auntie Linda had made some mistakes in her life. Who doesn’t? She had made some unpopular decisions that did not turn out well for her. Yet, she continued to press on…the only thing that she or any of us could do when things get rough.
We traveled with her to the small town of Manaoag, where my mother prayed and lit candles for Auntie Linda’s health to improve.
Later during our visit to the Philippines, we also spent time catching up with Jo’s grandmother Lola Matilde “Lily” Garcia Montalban, whom we hadn’t seen since 2005 when Jo’s brother Alex got married. Both Auntie Linda and Lola Lily passed away within 12 months of our visit to the Philippines.
The more I think about it looking back, the more I see the dots connecting. Had we not made the decision to sell off our things and start traveling the world, surely we would have missed a chance to see Auntie and Lola one last time.
We would have been too “busy” earning our livelihood…”securing” our future by sacrificing our present.
We couldn’t have fathomed that the timing of our decision would lend itself to opportunities for laughter, jokes, and saying “I love you” one last time…fleeting moments with loved ones who we’ve rarely seen in recent years.
We continue to learn throughout this chapter of our lives, and while we continue to take in experience and knowledge of other cultures, cuisines, and languages, we also learn about matters of life and death…
Don’t Save Love For Special Occasions
Tell those you care about that you love them. The discomfort you might feel as the words leave your lips will be far outweighed by the heaviness of not having had the chance to let them know how you felt.
Tomorrow is a gift. Today is a blessing. Never hesitate to tell someone you care about them. When death comes knocking, there aren’t any do-overs. If life without that person would suck, then every day you have with them should be like you won the lottery.
Don’t Waste A Single Day On Things Or People That Don’t Bring You Joy
On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll have people in your life who won’t bring joy to your life. You don’t need to hate on them, but you’re also not required to spend time with them.
If you’ve given your relationship with that person enough chances to no avail, it’s time to move on.
You only get one go at life, and you really don’t know when the finish line will be in sight. There is no time to stress over those who make you unhappy. Your time is better spent pursuing your dreams, and finding those in your life who accept who you are.
Pay Respects To The Living
My aunt was taunted, teased, and mocked for her life decisions. Yet, upon her death some of those same people openly paid their respects, even offering monetary aid for her memorial.
Expressions of respect and reverence are of no value to someone if they are no longer around to hear it. How can they experience the joy you can bring to their life or appreciate the impact you can make on them if you will only act when they are gone?
When someone makes a mistake, you can focus all your energy on what they did wrong. You can lambast them for not heeding your advice. Or you can take the high road, be a friend, and give them an encouraging word when they need it most.
Leave A Legacy Of Love
We all need to think about the future. We have to plan, save, and build so that later generations can have more opportunities to improve their own lives and families.
Remember though that life is fleeting. Senseless deaths happen every day. And when it happens, we scratch our heads…wondering why fate chose that person.
Challenge yourself to leave a legacy of love every day. Not as a provider, but as a human being.
Make it a daily practice to ask yourself at the end of each day, “If today was my last day on earth, would I be proud of who I am and how I behaved in the last 24 hours?” And if the answer is no, do better.
People may or may not remember your accomplishments…but they will always remember more how you made them feel.
We miss you Auntie Linda and Lola Lily. In your final years, you taught us to appreciate what little time we really have here on earth, to make the most of every moment, and to try to leave each person we meet better than how we found them.