There’s no question 2016 was rough for a lot of people. When you lose David Bowie, Prince, Harper Lee, Gene Wilder and Leonard Cohen in one year, it’s bad. Period. But then add in civil unrest, protests and a tumultuous (and seemingly never-ending) election season and most of us will be only too happy to see this year in the rear-view mirror.
For me, the heartache of 2016 was compounded by my mother’s death in September, less than a year after my beloved grandmother passed away. Neither was unexpected, really.
My grandmother was 92, although in surprisingly good health until the day her heart suddenly stopped while she was sitting in her favorite chair cheering on her favorite football team (who was winning, by the way).
We should all be so lucky.
My mother was only 71 but had been confined to a memory care facility for the past four years due to early-onset dementia. During that time, we watched as this once vibrant, intelligent, funny woman lost her ability to talk, walk or even smile. She was trapped and I prayed over and over that she would be released from her prison.
When release finally came, I was with her. Even as a writer, I can’t find the words to truly explain the jumble of emotions that washed over me.
And weirdly, I kept thinking, “Well, I guess I’m an orphan now.” See, my father passed away suddenly five years ago at the age of 67 – the same age my mother was when she was placed in memory care.
It’s been a rough few years.
After my mother’s death, my siblings and I walked that path that has become all too familiar recently. The notification of friends and extended family. The writing of the obituary. The planning of the funeral.
We also told stories about my mother, most of them funny. We listened as others shared their own experiences with her, most of them funny. We cried a little. We laughed a lot.
And it occurred to me as I was traveling this road for the 3rd time in five years that that’s really what we are, isn’t it? Stories and experiences. The stories we leave behind. The experiences we’ve given to others. In the end, those are the things that really matter, that stay with us, that bind us together, that keep us alive when we’ve turned to dust.
Experiences and stories. That’s my goal for 2017 for my friends, my family, my clients and those I just meet in passing. To give a little more of myself. To be conscious of the experiences I’m creating for others. To leave a memory that turns into a smile or a funny story.
As you gear up for another busy year, I hope you’ll to take some time to think about your own experiences – those you’ve had and those you’ve given to others. What has stuck with you? What would you like to do more of? How can you create little moments that make you (and your business) someone people love to tell others about? What is, ultimately, the story you’re writing?
I truly hope all the chapters you write in the next year hold only good things, filled with exciting adventures, beautiful experiences, and lots and lots of funny stories.