This weekend my Inbox started filling up with emails from people I never met. They were emails I wasn’t expecting. Memories I wasn’t expecting to hear. Moments they felt compelled to share about a woman we all lost nine years ago today.
One person said she still remembers “that call.” I remember it too. The one that stopped my heartbeat. The one that changed the beat of my life forever.
It’s a day I dread every year. The weeks leading up are painful. The weeks following too. The NCAA tournament brings back memories of the last day I saw Megs alive. We were celebrating Syracuse’s march to the Final Four. Good Friday is the last day we spoke. April 19th is the day she was killed. Easter is the day I picked out caskets. Oh, by the way May is no breeze. Graduation brings up the memory of walking across the stage to pick up her diploma. The one she worked so hard for, but never would hold. Then, there’s her birthday and Mother’s Day. A lot of days of sadness packed into a one month span.
For nine years, I’ve tried to move on. Last year, I finally composed my thoughts on life and publicly shared them. I almost didn’t post that article, afraid to share such raw and personal emotion with such a public audience. The simple title — “Don’t let money get in the way of life” resonated with so many. A year later, that post is still being shared among the masses. I still have no idea how many of Megs’ college friends found that article last weekend, but I’m so honored the message and the memory of my sister is still being shared and still living so strong.
Who knew a day I dreaded could bring such joy?
I never expected this year would be the one that brought such comfort. After all it’s been nine years. So much time has passed, I thought most people forgot. I’m overwhelmed by people who still remember, honor, and miss Megs.
Plus, I didn’t expect April 19, 2012 would be the easiest of anniversaries because I’m getting married this August. It’s a day I thought about in those early days after our loss. Back then, I didn’t know if I could love someone so much again. How could I ever walk down the aisle without my best friend and maid of honor there? It’s taken nine years and an amazing man to find a way to do that. It’s moving that this year, the year I’ve dreaded, I’ve had so many people unexpectedly offer such support.
A few days after the unexpected and comforting words from my sister’s college friends, one of my college friend’s husband posted something on his Facebook page. “You have a lifetime to payoff debt, but only a number of years your kids want to hang out with you….. Book a family vacation and enjoy the time with them.” He has two kids, and obviously had a moment that made him compelled to post that. Little did he know the timing of that post coincided with the anniversary of losing Megs.
Both events made me realize I need to make it a yearly habit to remind people that money should not get in the way of life. It’s hard to do during such tough economic times. I’ve seen friends deal with sudden job loss. I know how difficult it is. No matter your financial state, you can still find time to make memories.
Our lives are so hectic, and sometimes we get so caught up we really lose sense of reality. The reality is — life is short and as much as you think you control it — you don’t. At any time, it can change.
You don’t know what’s around the next corner
It was the last thing on Megs’ mind. When I walked into her dorm room, I remember staring at her appointment book full of notes about job interviews and exams. It was a chaotic scene – - clothes and books thrown about. Sticky notes covered her desk with tasks that needed completing before graduation. In a heartbeat, that life no longer mattered because Megs’ would never return.
All I have to hold onto, are those memories we created for 21 years together. I’m so glad we spent the money and went skydiving the year before she died, or that I went home that Christmas never knowing it would be the last. There are so many other things I wished we’d done, but we let money get in the way.
When you grow up with four siblings, money is tight. We didn’t take many family vacations. We took mostly day trips. The only exception was in second grade when we traveled to Orlando to see Disney. I’ll never forget it. All these years later, the memories are fresh. It’s a trip that probably broke the bank, but I don’t remember my parents ever complaining about money during that trip. They probably saved up for years, but it’s a memory we’ll always remember.
There’s one memory I don’t have, because my family let money get in the way. My junior year of college, I studied abroad in London. I saved up for years. My mom had dreams of taking my sister overseas during April vacation to visit me. The trip never happened. My family simply didn’t have the money. At the time, my brother was also in college so I understood the hardship. All my other friend’s parents came over to visit, but not mine. It was a missed opportunity and my family knew it. Now that Megs is gone, it’s more than a missed opportunity. It’s a missed memory. To this day my mom talks about the regret over that financial decision. We can only imagine the memories the three of us would have created that week. The only memory we have — not having enough money to take that trip.
That trip was probably possible. At the time, we couldn’t justify the cost given the other expenses facing our family. I think we all realize now we should have made it a bigger priority and made other sacrifices to make it happen. Losing Megs made us realize that instead of thinking a trip is financially impossible, we need to focus on ways to make it possible. We should not have let money get in the way of a once in a lifetime moment. A trip like that simply can’t be duplicated.
In honor of Megs and the other young man who lost his life, don’t let money get in the way of your life. It doesn’t mean you should spend lavishly or spend your way into debt, but take those trips that are once in a lifetime. You’ll be able to do that if you find ways to save in your daily life even if it’s $5 here or $10 there. It adds up, and then you can use your savings to take a once in a lifetime trip.
Create a bucket list and chip away at it each year. Skydiving was on both our lists, and I’m so glad we did it. It’s a memory we wouldn’t have if we dwelled on the $150 price tag. Instead, we splurged and took a leap of faith. Now, I’ll have that memory forever.
While an African Safari is on my bucket list, the next one I’m crossing off is a beautiful wedding on the beach followed by an amazing honeymoon. We’re making memories that day on a budget, but we’re splurging for things here and there that we know will be memorable for us and our guests forever. Thank you to everyone whose reached out to me over the years to help make this year a year I’ll treasure rather than dread. I look forward to the day I start the next chapter in my life and begin to make memories with my husband and hopefully family to be.
This year how are you going to make sure money doesn’t get in the way of life?