A few days ago, my wife’s aunt passed away.
She was a wonderful woman. She possessed an incredibly positive spirit, even though her life had brought her unbelievable hardship through no fault of her own. She overcame more challenges in her life than anyone else I’ve ever known, and it was a privilege to have known her.
I only ever had the opportunity to know this woman during her final years when her health was in serious decline. She required a mobile ventilator to breathe and was constantly confined to a wheelchair. She would get worn out from even small events. She took an incredible array of medications just to maintain things.
Yet, through it all, she had an amazing positive spirit. She was one of those people that always brought a smile to the table. She managed to always find a kind thing to say about everyone and about every situation.
My fondest memory of her took place a few summers ago. The two of us were watching a parade together. Without fail, she found something positive to say about each of the floats and bands and other parade elements that went by.
As often happens at a parade, the people in the parade would toss candy and other small treats to the crowd. I helped my son and daughter retrieve a few pieces and ate a piece or two myself.
At one point, a float went by tossing out miniature pieces of string cheese – it was a local dairy that was advertising their wares. As this went by, I felt a tug at my shirt. She asked me if I could pick up a piece of string cheese for her. I checked with her nurse, who gave a small nod, so I grabbed a piece that had been tossed out.
I helped her open a piece of the string cheese and got the peeling of it started for her. She took a small bite of it, closed her eyes, and sighed as she chewed on it. She opened her eyes, looked up at me with a smile, and said, “It’s the little things, Trent.”
It is really easy to get caught up in the business in our lives. We have work to do, household tasks to take care of, Christmas presents to wrap. The list goes on and on – at least it does for me.
It is so easy to lose sight of the simple pleasures in life in all of that hustle and bustle. Simple things, like the feeling of my daughter holding my hand as she watches her big brother sing at a Christmas play, or the feeling of a snowflake or two on your tongue, or the noise of the shared laughter of your mother and your toddler-aged child.
For her, these little pleasures meant so much, and that moment with her reminded me of how wonderful the little things really are. They’re worth savoring, and if you can enjoy them, then you don’t need to spend your time and energy and money on chasing ever-bigger pleasures.
It is the little things. I’ll miss her.
A final note: if you are a parent, please vaccinate your children. The medical issues that caused this wonderful woman to have difficult medical issues throughout her adult life and to eventually pass away were issues that could have been prevented had the appropriate vaccine been available just a year or two earlier. I have borne witness to the incredible challenges that she has had to take on because they didn’t have a vaccine, and my wife’s aunt has been an inspiration to me to make sure that my children have received their vaccinations exactly on schedule.