The phone call. The knock on the door. The social media post. Some unexpected bad news just never arrives gracefully. In an instant you learn that a loved one is terribly ill, injured, or already dead. The reminder: live like you are dying. One second you are zipping along with your daily routines; the next second life jerks you into shock, disbelief, and grief. As author Mitch Albom says, “One day can bend your life.”

My week started out with seeing a Facebook post about a college friend who died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack. What??!!! Fine on Saturday. Dead on Sunday.

Giving Yourself Space and Grace

Almost all of us can relate to receiving unexpected news of a loved one’s death. Some of us hunker down in denial. Some of us spill out our frayed emotions. Others of us swirl in a combination of numbness and outward angst. As mental health professionals advise, grief can tumble and toss us about with varied responses, all fluctuating throughout our days.

One thing I’ve learned over the years about sudden loss and grief is to give myself space and grace. None of us feel the exact same emotions in the exact same way at the exact same time. While grief is a shared response to loss, it’s also an individual journey.

Advice for Living and Dying

I’ll never forget driving across the northern Kansas flatlands returning from one of my last trips to visit my failing dad in Nebraska. Tim McGraw’s hit “Live Like You Were Dying” came on the radio, and I was both belting out the lyrics and bawling. “How’s it hit ya, when you get that kind of news. Man what ya do. And he says, ‘I went sky divin’, I went rocky mountain climbin’. . . . And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’ve been denying,’ and he said ‘someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dyin’.’”

The unexpected phone calls, knocks on the door, and online posts are a part of living on this planet. So do we tense in anxiousness over the likelihood of losing someone? How do we prepare ourselves? I venture that we live each day as it comes with appreciation for those we love. We look for the little everyday things to savor, the unexpected joys that make us smile. We choose not to focus on the some day, but focus on the right now. We live with intentionality. We live with joy. We live like we are dying.

A classic Beth post first published in June 2018.