A life lesson learned in death

Kirjoittaja on New Yorkissa varttunut ja Helsingissä naisistunut copywriter.

Dear Mom,

Unfortunately, I went to a funeral yesterday, too. For a way-too-young-to-die woman who was both a dear friend and the mother of another dear friend.

It’s always sad when someone dies, but somehow it feels even worse when it’s a person described by everyone as “so full of life”. After all, the more you love life, the harder it is to let go. And when you do, you leave a bigger mark on the world but also a bigger hole in people’s hearts. Friendships, relationships and experiences end mid-story. That was certainly the case here.

Although the loss of her mother was most profound for my friend, at the funeral she somehow seemed more at peace than most of the people sitting in the pews behind her. I thought to myself: It must not have hit her yet.

Tears rolling down my cheeks, I listened to the rabbi talk about the relationship between mother and daughter, herself a new mother. He talked about their life together. He recounted a few of the millions of memories they’d made over what’s now officially a lifetime.

But it was what he said next that took me straight to what I believe must be the source of my friend’s peace. Between these two people, he said, “nothing was left unsaid in the realm of love.”

There’s a saying here that Finns only say “I love you” on two occasions – on their wedding day and their death bed. It’s a generalization, of course. But the funny thing about generalizations is that they’re often true.

The “argument” is that if you say it too much it loses its meaning. Yeah, that makes sense. In the same way that it makes sense to hold your breath to save air or to pee once a week in order to conserve toilet paper.

And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people complain about how fake Americans are because we “love” everyone from the baristas at our local Starbucks to our dogs. I don’t understand – how can you not love someone who makes your soy latte every morning?!

After the funeral, my friend said: “I’m going to miss her every day, but today my life goes on.” And I know it will. In no small part because nothing was left unsaid in the realm of love. There will be no waking up in the night and thinking “I wish I had told her” for my friend. No fear of “I hope she knew”. She did know. They both did.

Some of the greatest life lessons are learned in death. Janice and Sophie have something to teach us all. Love is how you stay alive even after you’re gone. Leave nothing unsaid.

Love you, Lissu