Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Just keep smiling

November has been a hard month. It started out with our 2-year-old dog’s unexpected death (a complication from his surgery in September for bloat) and it’s ending with the equally unexpected arrival of a new puppy. 

Finn is actually our late dog's nephew. Here's our beloved Leo…

Minor resemblance. Ha. These English Pointers are special dogs and we feel so lucky to have brought another one into our family.

But it’s been a hectic month. In school, at home, and also in our community. The death of a friend’s wife hit us hard. She was young, vibrant, active, a loving mother, a beloved teacher—and yet, she took her own life.

Mental illness and depression are not easy things to talk about. I’m certainly not an expert. There are so many questions about why. So many feelings of guilt, I imagine, for those who were closest to her. But at this woman’s celebration of life last weekend her husband and her family members spoke powerful words that amounted to the following:

Tell those you love how much you love them. Smile more. Help others when you can. Don’t take one day for granted. It’s not possible to know what is going on in the deepest parts of a person’s mind. We all have secret lives, I believe, and some are darker than others. But that one smile, that one laugh, that one moment of giving can make a difference. It might inspire another smile, another laugh, another gesture of kindness.

These things multiply. We hear about it all the time—the person in the car ahead of you at the drive-thru pays for your coffee. What do you do? You pay for the person behind you. You let one car into your line of traffic and behind you another person stops and does the same for another car.
Such small things, but they make a difference.

There will always be loss. It’s inevitable. And it’s pretty damned hard to smile when sadness is consuming us. Sometimes, we don't want to talk about it. We'd rather pretend it doesn't exist. That’s when we need another person’s smile the most. Even if they never know how much it meant. 

When Thanksgiving arrives tomorrow, I’m going to bake my apple pie and scalloped potatoes. I’m going to go to my parents’ house and pour gravy on everything on my plate. I’m going to talk to my grandmother, who has finally (!) gotten a hearing aid. I’m going to snuggle with my puppy and try to convince my daughters to eat turkey and peas and mashed potatoes and not just pie. And I’m going to try to do it all while smiling.