Unfiltered: What Death Taught Me About Life.

I went to a funeral this week. For my great-grandma.

One of my cousins was reminiscing about time spent with her. All of the stories had this beautiful simplicity. She talked about wandering in the woods, picking berries, sitting on the porch on a sunny day, sharing home-cooked meals, always having people in the house, and how the grandchildren always had homemade gifts.

Something about her memories pricked me.

They were pure, before a time when so many other things demanded our attention.

My mom, she’s is rock. Where I wear my heart on my sleeve, she is this solid force that never stops going and works harder than anyone I know.

But the morning after we buried her grandma, she left work to take a day off. She said she was going to go spend the day with her husband. She motioned to her computer and her desk and said, with tears in her eyes, “Because all of this, it doesn’t matter.” 

I had a moment at the Making Things Happen conference to get quiet and truly envision my life five and ten years from now. And the vision made me lose it. I sobbed on the floor of that hotel conference room.

The vision is really simple, actually. At the core, it was just a table in the middle of a welcoming space, full of people and laughter and tears. A shared life.

When I explained that vision to a friend, he said, “That dream is so strong it’s like a memory. Like it’s already happened.”

There are things alive in us that are dying for us to wake up.

Memories of the way things once were. Dreams of the way things should be.

Those things, the ones that make us cry at desks or on hotel floors? Those things mean something.

And I think we have to pay attention before it's too late.

The life I want, at it's core, is not so different than those simple memories of my great-grandma's life. But my life has so much unnecessary extra.

At the funeral, I had a chance to catch up with an older woman that used to own a thrift shop of sorts. She had several buildings full of stuff that she’d collected from auctions and sales over the years. Anytime I needed a piece of furniture or trinket, I’d browse the aisles of junk and find hidden treasures.

I told her how I missed having her shop to shop to peruse and she responded, “Oh, I don’t! I’m glad to be free of all that stuff.”

Then that I saw it. There was more joy in her eyes, a lightness in her voice, a genuine smile on her face. “You only go this way once,” she said, grinning. “Might as well do it right. Enjoy life.

I thought about her new life, free of the stuff. I thought about my granny, all of those years on the farm.

I suddenly wished for less.

But I just don’t know how to do it.

Life feels like too much, too heavy, like it's crushing that vision in my heart. In order to see it come to life, I know I have to strategically plan and work really hard. But I find myself getting lost in the logistics, lost in my iPhone, lost in the pressure to do all the things.

How do I work a job that pays the bills, while doing the thing I love, so I can live a life that fulfills my heart, a life that truly feels like living, a life that is centered on the things that actually matter?

I keep taking on more to get to a life of less and that thing inside of me, that memory of a dream, is crying out. Because time is short and we waste our lives on things that mean nothing while there are porches to sit on and meals to make and people to love.

I honestly have no answers. I struggle with it daily.

But I think it starts with less.

Hard nos. Painful sacrifices. Uncomfortable situations.

We have to imagine the memories we want to have someday. The stories we want to tell. The moments we'll hold onto. We have to allow them to wake us up. And then go do whatever it takes to make them happen.

Maybe the excess in our lives will become fuel for the fire. Maybe the more we shed the brighter we will burn for the things that matter. Maybe the sacrifices we make and the fires we start will light the way to the life that was made for us.

Because we only go this way once. Might as well do it right.


“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it's yours.” -Ayn Rand