Those sappy e-mails that circulate actually have some truth to them: Don’t put off today what you may not be able to do tomorrow — especially when it comes to spending time with people you love.
Though not a surprise, it’s still interesting to see how families come together when a sudden illness strikes one of their own. Brothers and sisters work together putting aside any differences for the sake of the person downed; out-laws become in-laws once again; and estranged children come back to the fold.
In some families and cultures, everything is put on hold because of a loved one’s illness or accident; in others, it’s deemed that important life celebrations, such as a wedding, must go on, even in the face of a recent tragedy.
But all this can hold true with an unsurprising death, like that of an octogenarian grandmother. What’s markedly different in an untimely incident, such as a heart attack or stroke in one who’s not aged, is how it affects the rest of the family.
For instance, if your teenager was in a serious road accident — it would change how you felt about the fact that he missed curfew the night before, or didn’t remember to take out the garbage. The things that preoccupy us day to day, which aren’t petty, but simply part of our everyday lives, seem completely unimportant in the face of tragedy.
It’s also very normal, especially if there’s an illness, for other family members to start worrying about their own health. A sudden heart attack, the discovery of certain cancers, a stroke — these will often send relatives and people who identify for medical checkups. And rightly so.
Just as interesting is to note how different people react in a time of crisis. Which child of the patient crumples, and which one takes control? How does the wife of the man who suffers a stroke cope?
When my late grandmother was fading and in the hospital for what would turn out to be the last time, I surprised myself at some of my reactions. Being by her side from morning to night wasn’t difficult, but some of the unappetizing tasks that needed to be taken care of weren’t on my resumé. But I did them without hesitation because of my love for her, and because someone had to do it.
Sickness and death will befall all of us and all of our loved ones — it’s a given, and that’s the cycle of human life. It’s how we deal with each other during the good times and the bad that can make a world of difference.
So, at risk of sounding clichéd, take the time to tell those you love how much you care; spend time with your children; call your parents; visit your grandparents; make an effort to see your friends, and I mean in person, not on Facebook.
Our time with each other is limited, so make the most of it.
Lisi Tesher is a much travelled freelance writer who has studied art history, photography, languages and pop culture. She is also a constant and fascinated student of relationships, maintaining contact with a worldwide network.