We're hard approaching the second remembrance of the tragic events of 9/11/2001, less than a month away.
It is sometimes said that there are lessons in these kinds of events. Pundits say that we can learn from tragedy. Maybe that's so. But what exactly are the lessons? And who's teaching them?
Perhaps, if that event had anything that we can use to our individual or societal benefit, it was the heart-wrenching reminder of how fleeting this thing called life can be. Yes, we get small reminders on a daily basis. The local nightly TV news and the daily newspaper usually tell a tragic tale that has unfolded in our communities. The national news carries stories with wider impact.
Some events are so large that they rivet all of our attention simultaneously. Going backward in time, 9/11 was one; Princess Diana's accident and death was another; anyone over the age of six in 1963 probably remembers where they were when they heard of the assassination of JFK; and there are still millions who recall their reaction to the news on December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was bombed.
All of those events are unnatural, and involve human actions and human error. Yet each year millions of lives are lost to natural phenomenon - floods, droughts, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other manifestations of the earth's bumpy ride through the solar system. Whether the endings are natural or man-made, what do we learn? One thing seems clear. We learn that staying alive is often a case of not being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You can assign that to religious or spiritual beliefs, to intelligence, or to just plain dumb luck.
Try as we might to make our world perfectly safe from all possible harm, we can't. We worry about protecting ourselves and our loved ones from anything and everything. But we can't. Worrying sometimes compounds the problem. While we are worried, we often miss out on our lives and the people in them.
Here at The Grief Recovery Institute, almost half of the stories we hear are from people whose lives were decimated by the sudden death of a loved one. In addition to the pure grief of missing those who died, they lamented any time they lost while their loved ones were still alive. They speak of having missed opportunities to spend time together and to have those times be more meaningful. Sometimes those times were lost because they were focused on the acquisition of money, property, and other such things.
One of the most poignant lessons of 9/11 was the cell-phone calls from the people on the planes to loved ones on the ground. Those calls were made by people who knew they were going to die. The calls were all about love and relationships. None were about money.
The message may be that we must not squander the time we have because none of us ever knows, in advance, how much we have left. We've yet to meet anyone with a document signed by God or any other high authority that guarantees that they'll be alive tomorrow.
If you have some undelivered positive thoughts and feelings about people in your life, today might be the perfect day to pick up your phone, or your mouse, and make a call or send an email.
Tell them how you feel. It's as much for you as it is for them.