We stood in the kitchen chatting between sips of coffee and bites of cinnamon-sugar toast. Laughing. Joking. Telling stories. Discussing life. Discussing loss. Reminiscing about my mother and how desperately she’s missed.
That’s when the conversation took a slight turn. My dad did the thing he always does before talking about something serious. He makes a sarcastic joke. The kind of joke that makes you chuckle and also hits you in the gut.
There he stood, at my kitchen counter, starting a conversation about when he dies. I don’t like these conversations. In fact, I hate them.
I hate the thought of losing anyone else. I hate the fact that I already know the pain of losing a parent. I hate the reality that this is a conversation that probably needs to happen. Yet, one I desperately wish I could avoid. You’re never ready or excited to plan the life you’ll live after someone you love is gone.
But we’ve all learned a little something since losing my mother. You think there is time. You count on tomorrow. But one day, tomorrow doesn’t come. It’s stolen from you. Then, you sit with words left unsaid and questions left unanswered.
Loss changes the way you live. It changes the way you love and it changes the way you listen. So there I stood, in my kitchen, with my father and husband reluctantly listening. I listened to my father’s plan for the day that he is no longer here. I listened to his wishes, his requests, his life goals, and what he hopes to leave behind.
When the conversation started, I wanted to run. I wanted to shut it down. I wanted to change the subject and change the mood. Instead, I let it change me. I listened intently and became intrigued by my father. I learned things about him I never knew. It was like watching someone give their own eulogy. It was inspiring and beautiful. I stopped thinking about what it would mean when I followed through with his wishes, and starting carefully listening to the things that made him smile and light up as he shared his story and requests.
I listened as he talked about music and family and life. It was priceless. It was a serious moment that I didn’t expect, nor necessarily want, but it ended up being one of the few times I can remember listening to my father’s heart and soul.
I listened as he described his biggest life goal and I smiled thinking about how he’s living it out each and every day. I listened to the legacy he wanted to be remembered for and felt proud because he’s currently here living the exact legacy he’s praying he leaves behind.
The world looks different after losing a parent. The world immediately looked different the moment my mother passed and the day my father passes, the world will become unrecognizable once again.
For now, I’m going to soak up all the things that make this world great because of my father’s influence. I’m going to enjoy the way he brings a song and a joke with him everywhere he goes. I’m going to put all his wishes and requests in my memory and hope that I can tuck them away for a very long time, unneeded.
I’m thankful for this hard conversation because in sharing his wishes for death I learned so much about his life. A hard conversation gave me new insight into his heart and the legacy in which he’s already creating. A legacy of laughs and love, set to the tune of a Bob Seger song.
Have the conversations, even the tough ones. In fact, especially the tough ones.
Ask for the stories. Ask for the wishes and intentions. Ask for the adventures and the lessons learned. You’ll never regret listening to the life of someone you love. One day there won’t be any time left to ask and listen. Do it now, friends. You won’t regret it.
A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.