Life and Death

life and death

Just shy of two weeks ago, Harley and I went to our first funeral. But it’s not just the day of the funeral that has stuck with me, it’s everything around it, too. You see, one of my closest friend’s mom died in a tragic and sudden way. It’s been devastating for the family, but also for everyone who was touched by her life. Jan was a beautiful, generous, loving woman who made everyone feel special. She loved Harley so much, too, and called herself Harley’s God-Grandmother. And she was. And now that she’s gone, it’s made me think about the past as well as the future.

Looking back, I wish I had seen her more. I have wonderful memories with her, but I wish I had even more. I wish I had asked her to hang out with me and Harley when she was free in Joburg. I generally don’t believe in regret – I know that I always make the best decisions I can with the information I have at the time. And yet… I regret not spending more time with Jan, and if I’d known then just how little time we’d have together, I would have done things differently. But I suppose that’s what death does to us.

harley-and-janBut it also makes me think about the things Jan wanted. She was so excited to see her daughter get married, have kids. She was so excited to come for a visit in the States, to see parts of the world she was intrigued by. She never got to do those things. Like I said, I don’t really believe in regret because I do the best I can at any time with the knowledge that I have, but I think this is an important reminder to seize the day. Carpe Diem. It feels so much more important to do the things I want to do, to be the person I want to be, because none of us know how much time we have in this world. So all the things I plan to do one day feel like they should be done sooner rather than later, all the memories I want to make with people shouldn’t be put off. There isn’t all the time in the world.

It also feels so cyclical at the moment. Yes, it was way too soon for Jan, way too tragic. And yet, a blog post from Neil Gaiman feels so true:

I’m watching the circle of life in action. Eddie Campbell got it right. The Dance of Lifey Death. It’s not a bad thing. Somebody enters, somebody leaves, the dance continues and the love remains.

We went to the funeral, me and Harley and Dean dressed in black. I nursed her in the chapel during the service, as I know Jan would have encouraged me to, even in between my tears. So many people smiled at us, happy to see our little family, the little life that still has so much ahead of her. It felt so cyclical, taking a baby to a funeral. As one life leaves this world, there is still so much life left behind. We can’t bring Jan back, but we can remember who she was and continue her legacy.

I am sad that Harley won’t remember the sweet woman who sang to her about the Sandman, but the love that was in Janet has been passed on to her daughter and to me and to all the people who knew her, and that love will be passed on to Harley. Even if she doesn’t know the source of it, it’s still in the system.

So, I will cherish the memories that I have of Jan. I will cherish the fact that she got to hang out with Harley, that she was one of the first people I was ever comfy with holding my little munchkin. I will celebrate the life she lived, the way she loved us all, and I will remember her for all the joy she brought into this world. And seeing as she loved Little House on the Prairie as much as my mom and I did, I think the poem that we love holds true for her, too:

Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I will remember you all.
If you can only remember me with tears, then don’t remember me at all.

I will remember you, Jan.


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