Milton Erickson once said, “Life will bring you pain all by itself. Your responsibility is to create joy.”
This past November my dad passed away suddenly and completely out of the blue. The paramedics, and then later the doctors, all labored intensely to revive him. It was 43 minutes before they got a pulse. Now my dad, who was a police officer nearly 30 years, surely must have known that 43 minutes was far too long to come out of this with any quality of life. In a way I think the fact that he was revived after so long was his way of giving my mom time to say goodbye. He was like that. Dad was then put on life support for nine days until my mom had to make the most important decision she would ever have to make. Ever.
It’s been a couple of months since his passing and mom is learning to do a lot of things by herself. Simple things that dad had just always done. Because that’s how he was. “I’ve got it Dear.” “I’ll fix it Dear.” Well, this winter she learned how to build a fire in the fireplace. The first one took her four or five tries to stay lit, but with persistence she persevered. Now she has officially proclaimed herself a master at building fires. She’s learned to do a whole host of tasks around the house and yard that he had once done. Goofy little things like using switching out the license plates on her car. Things many of us do all the time are the things he had always just done for her and now she is learning to do on her own.
At first she felt a bit overwhelmed at the thought of everything that he had done and that now she is responsible for doing, but each and every new thing she attempts sparks a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I think she’s learning a lot about herself and her strength. She somehow, in a time of absolute pain, found incredible courage to get up and move forward. Yes it’s painful. Every day it’s painful. It’s also beautiful. It’s beautiful to see someone strive to realize their potential, to try something new even though they are somewhat intimidated, and to amaze themselves each day knowing that they ARE capable.
I remember one day she called me laughing and announced she learned how to use a screwdriver that day. What a beautiful simple joy. To learn, to laugh, and to appreciate life.
I encourage everyone to learn something new every week. If you’re married, teach each other the tasks that you normally do alone. If something is broken, learn how to fix it. Build a bird house or a window planter or build something just to learn to work with tools. Step outside of your comfort zone and experience something you normally wouldn’t try. You will amaze yourself at the things you can do! Oh, and most important? If you fail, just try again (and again and again if necessary).