It was a lazy midmorning, one of those where you just don’t want to get out of bed. I remember becoming hyper-aware when the phone rang, suddenly.
“Hannah is dead” is all I heard my friend Caroline say on the other line.
Something broke inside of me.
"What do you mean Hannah is dead?" was my initial reaction. It simply couldn’t be. This wasn’t my life. It was all a joke … right?
Wrong. Caroline wasn’t being her normally playful self. Hannah had been in a car accident, and just like that, she was gone.
I received this call at a time of my life when I was in an emotional black hole; so when Caroline called me, I immediately thought, Why hadn't it been me? It shouldn’t have been Hannah, it should have been me. I repeated this myself for months.
I let the death of my gorgeous, sharp-as-nails friend make me feel guilty about having a life that I felt I was only wasting. But sometimes we have to receive the internal shock from hell to turn us around in a new direction and awaken us to all we’re meant to experience.
It took me years of processing to understand what I could take away from this experience of my life, and while I’m still finding the missing pieces, there are at least seven things I’ve come to grips with from losing my spirited and beautiful, otherworldly best friend. Here's the wisdom I've gleaned from losing my friend that I wish more people knew:
1. "Life is a gift" isn't just a cliché.
We may have it all seemingly figured out today, only to wake up and have to begin again tomorrow. We are often taking far more for granted than we’d like to admit. I know I’m not the only one who has wasted time complaining when a solution was usually right in front of me if I was willing to look for it.
Yet, most of us aren’t looking for the solution because we’re so caught up in the hamster wheel of life. Death of a loved one makes us realize that we’ve got to get out of our heads and face the challenges that are in front of us because …
2. This moment is our moment. Every moment is.
We want our choices to matter but at the same time we don’t give them that much weight. We seem to think that it’s OK if we don’t take life seriously or it’s OK if we put things off. What I learned through this experience is that nothing is worth avoiding, and every moment is a chance to wake up some hidden and dormant part of ourselves. Life is ours for the taking!
3. Wasting time is just that: a waste.
It may not be what we want to hear, but so many of us focus on the wrong little things and find a reason to complain without ever lookingat the bigger picture. We play the victim card and I’m no different from most.
I thought that events in my life were out of my control, but having this sort of wake up call made me feel the need to fully awaken to my personal responsibility. We always have that ability.
4. Life is hard, and living is work.
A meaningful life doesn’t happen by just a prayer or an intention; it comes about when we can change our limited mind into having a perspective that is limitless. And more often than not, this takes dropping our defenses and admitting that we aren’t right, or that we are scared, and that we need help.
Hannah’s death allowed me to open up to my own vulnerability on a deeper level. It made me realize that I’m not indestructible, which I once thought, but I do have the ability to be authentic. It is within a humble approach to life where we will be granted deeper meaning.
5. We are all growing, or shrinking.
In Hannah’s absence, I am reminded that we all have the capability of acting as our own greatest ally, or our own worst enemy. We can grow if we want to grow, but we can also keep on shrinking.
I remember a month or so before Hannah's death, I received the strangest email from her that sounded a lot like a goodbye. In it, she spoke of her faith in me, and essentially told me that once I work through my personal struggles with addiction, I would find great success.
What I’ve realized since then is that success isn’t an overnight story and we can only reach it if we are willing to put one foot in front of the other and try. We never know what awaits for us, but we will never know what is waiting if we never set out to find it.
6. Everything really does happen for a reason.
There are times when I find myself bewildered in my confusion because I just can’t wrap my mind around what sort of reason things unfold the way they do. Hannah’s death gave me much questioning about my faith, but what I always come back around to is the trust that I have in divine order.
This life is mysterious, and we’re not supposed to have all the answers. It seems for me that the more I trust myself, the more I trust the universe and see it working for me instead of seemingly against me.
7. Love — not life — is what is eternal.
Most things in life are temporary, but the one thing that beats out material items, success, or money … is love. It’s the greatest power in the universe and always connects us to a sense of meaning. It is within love that we find the ability to forgive others, and ourselves.
It is also within love that I remember all of the laughter I shared with Hannah. When I call upon her or visit her graveyard these days, I feel her spirit speak to me through my heart. It’s not something that was immediate or that I can fully explain, but it sure is something I can feel nowadays. I know that she lives on, through me, because of love.
Sometimes we have to break inside and fall apart in order to wake up to who we truly are. We may never be rewarded with the exact reason things happen in tragic ways, but we don’t need the complete story in order to continue to write the individual chapters of our life.
I am grateful Hannah is still a part of my story. Some may say it is in her absence where I hold her memory strong, but I know she is right here in my heart.