He walks across the room heading straight towards me with compassion in his eyes and sympathy in his smile. He gently grabs me and gives me a hug as he whispers, “I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine.”
I smile and hug him back. He’s a friend I haven’t seen in years– one from my childhood, the kind of friend that always feels like home. His words offer condolences for the loss of my mother, a mother who was only 57. All of my friends, including him, still have both of their parents and there I stood honoring the fact that I’d just lost one of mine.
I’m now in foreign territory. I’m now living a reality that most of the people I’m closest with couldn’t possibly understand, or as they say, a truth that they “can’t imagine”. Those words aren’t new, I have heard them repeatedly since my mothers death.
The more I hear them the more my response and reaction changes. At first I was numb to any words spoken my way. Lately simple words seem to pierce my heart in ways words never have before.
I want to look at him and say “I know you can’t imagine but you should. You should start imagining. Because one of these days you will be forced into the same reality that I’m standing here in front of you holding. I couldn’t imagine either, until the day I didn’t have a choice.”
Start imagining. Start thinking about what it would mean to lose the people that you love the most. Start thinking about your life when they are no longer in it. Maybe when you think about it and imagine it, it will make you live with bolder intentionality and greater love.
Maybe if you pause and think how it will feel when you have to stand in these shoes, the black ones that are uncomfortable and carrying the weight of not just a woman but all of her grief too, you might embrace the moments that still remain with more purpose and meaning.
Start imagining so that you can prepare yourself. I never got the chance to prepare myself. Although, I believe you can never truly prepare for losing someone so significant in your life that your entire future changes. But also, maybe just maybe I wish I had the chance to find out if it’s possible.
Start imagining if you had to live without her or him or them, and then maybe you’ll be able to tell them each day how much you love them, how much you value them, and how blessed you are because of their presence in your life. I spoke all of those truths to my mother but I wish I would’ve told her a million more times than I did.
Maybe if you try to imagine then you won’t have as many regrets and ”I wish I would have’s” as I do. Maybe you’ll have more pictures and more “I love you’s”. Maybe you’ll have more phone calls and more planned vacations together. Maybe you’ll have more time together because you prioritized greater than ever before.
The truth is, you can imagine it, you simply don’t want to. And why would you? No one wants to envision or imagine life without someone they love. Most of us walk around each day ignoring the fragility of life. We walk around forgetting how delicate time is and just how quickly it evaporates.
You can imagine it, but imagining means thinking about the harsh and heartbreaking truths of death and loss. You can imagine, but it means imagining a future that you don’t want because it’s filled with the life-changing absence of someone unforgettable.
You can imagine it, but not imagining is easier.
I wish I didn’t have to imagine life with loss—life without my mother. But that is no longer a choice. I was forced to not only imagine, but live, the consequences of loss. One day you will too.
Start imagining, if only for a second. Maybe when you think about it, it will make you live with bolder intentionality and greater love. Maybe if you think about it, you might embrace the moments that still remain with more purpose and meaning.
The truth is, you can imagine it, you simply don’t want to. And why would you? It’s harsh, trust me.
A 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.