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2021 Began With A Goodbye

The monstrosity that has been 2020 ended with the very sad passing of a childhood friend’s father. As I sit down to write, I have just returned home from his viewing. It is New Year’s Day, the day that most people create fresh starts for themselves, trying to say hello to new habits and goodbye to less desirable ones. Unfortunately, many of us from my small town have found ourselves welcoming the new year with a painful goodbye.

Death is one of those subjects that I avoid thinking about, unless, of course, I’m in the middle of a panic attack, convinced everyone around me is going to die (anxiety, am I right?!). But here I am, on New Year’s Day, looking death in the face and grappling with what it all means. My dear friend’s father was taken by cancer in what felt like the blink of an eye. This is a man who has watched me grow up, from attending all our soccer games as kids right down to the day we graduated high school and beyond. I have countless fond memories of this man, who was a tried and true cowboy until the very moment he passed.

But why did he pass? Why now? Why do my dear friend, her dear sister, and her dear mother have to say goodbye to someone they loved so much? It’s times like this when I cannot make sense of it all. There are so many theories out there about how you can “manifest” your own healing, even when it comes to cancer. I’ve ready so many stories in which people say that after they were diagnosed with cancer, they fought like hell and never accepted death; and because of their tenacity and positivity, they beat cancer, even in the most grim of circumstances.

So what gives, huh? Is it a “great spirit” that heals cancer? Because this man had it. Is it a positive attitude? Because he had that too. Do you need to be a believer in Jesus to be saved from cancer? Because let me tell you, this man loved the Lord. As a teenager, when I would have sleepovers at my friend’s house, I was always impressed by his work ethic, the perpetual pep in his step, and the way he always greeted me with a “Hey baby! How you been?! God bless, baby, god bless!” and a hug so tight you’d nearly get the wind knocked out of you. When it came to positivity, this man did not appear to be slacking one single bit. So why? Why did he have to leave now, when he still had so much left to tend to here on earth? He wasn’t anywhere close to slowing down in life! In fact, this man had more soul and spirit than could possibly fit into a secular body….

….and maybe that’s the point. Maybe he had so much soul, so much spirit, so much love to give that his time on earth had ended and he was needed elsewhere. Maybe his soul simply outgrew his physical body and therefore, it was his time to pass. I have always believed that your body is a vessel for your soul. And while your body may die, your soul never does.

While my heart is broken over the pain that my dear friend and her family are enduring in the wake of their loss, I am also acutely aware of the irony of beginning the new year with a goodbye. Jesus, God, the universe, or whatever deity you might believe in truly doesn’t care about the minute in which 11:59pm one year turns into 12:00am the next year.

Every minute matters. Every day counts. A resolution on New Year’s Day is no more special than a resolution on a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of July. And while so many resolutions tend to be centered toward weight-loss, 2021 reminds me that this body that you’re in is merely a vessel. With that being said, if you have a resolution for this year, I encourage you to make it something soul-changing, not body-changing. Resolve to be more present with your loved ones. Resolve to tap into that artistic talent you’ve always known you’ve had. Resolve to volunteer at an animal shelter or food pantry. Whatever it may be, feed your soul and the souls of others. Live so beautifully that it becomes contagious to the ones around you.

After all, that’s how my friend’s father lived. And in doing so, he has made himself an eternal light to all of us.

Rest in peace to the cowboy who was loved by all.

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