Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Width Of Our Lives

Friends of mine are struggling with the worst thing a parent can go through…the loss of a child. She has an inoperable and untreatable brain tumor. The sad thing is I know what they are going through. I lost my daughter almost seven years ago. What I’ve learned since then has been invaluable and I only wish I could help them see it sooner than I did.

There is a quote by Diane Ackerman that we should all embrace and live by. “I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” How we live our lives is more important than the length of our lives. What is the legacy we leave behind? What will those we leave behind remember about us? Those are the questions we should consider when we contemplate our lives.

It gets a bit more complicated when a child is losing their battle with an incurable illness. Parents have the hardest time understanding or accepting that they cannot control the situation. They begin to wonder if they did enough for their child. Did they give that child enough love, enough compassion, or enough of themselves? Did they do everything they possible could to help that child in any part of the journey they must take?

These are the questions they will, unfortunately, take with them every day for the rest of their lives. Logically they will know they did, but there will always be that lingering doubt. Amanda would have been 23 years old on January 12th. She passed away seven years ago on January 30th and not one of these questions fails to enter my mind every single day.

I wish I could tell them it’s okay to have these thoughts. It’s how much weight they give them that counts. Amanda lived a very full life for someone who had a life full of health issues. She snowmobiled in the Rockies, camped in those same mountains, moved across country several times and never failed to make sure you knew she loved you. She also loved the daylights out of her brothers and her sister and she knew they returned that same depth of love. Logically, I know she received everything she needed. Emotionally is a very different story.

When you think about your life, do you feel you have been fulfilled? Do you feel you need to have done more? Remember it is always the people around you that make the width of your life burst at the seams. Isn’t that what we all want? Just to know we’ve loved and have been loved? If you have shown your children love and your children have returned that love in spades, then you have done everything you can do for them.


  1. I have two friends that have both lost their children in the past few months. I sit and cry, because I want to do more than just be there for them, but I do not know WHAT I can do.

    You are a really great person, I hope you know that.

  2. I'm very sorry for what your friends are going through. I don't have children, and losing pets is bad enough, so I can't imagine what losing a child must be like. Of course, no one can unless they've been there. I knew a lady who lost both of her children to violence. She spent a great deal of her time helping other parents survive the loss of a a child. I was very impressed by how centered she seemed.