My brother died in October. He wasn’t sick and he wasn’t old. He was 53 with the mind, spirit, and body of someone twenty years younger. He was a professor and a diver, a husband and a conservationist. A SCUBA instructor and kind guide for others in the world of learning and in the world of water. Respect followed him, and his legacy to his students and community was one of generous care, intellectual challenge, diving skills, and life mentoring.
A friend and he, both certified cave divers, lived for adventure and exploration, seeing and going places very few have and ever will. They explored the depths of Eagle’s Nest, the “Mount Everest of cave diving”, many times before, but this time, a Saturday in October, things went wrong and they breathed their last together, side by side, in the depths.
His courage and his insatiable taste for living life on the edge of beauty and adventure both inspire me and frighten me. He saw and lived and influenced his world in ways that very few people do in 80+ years but that he did in 50. I have been asking myself:
“Do I want to live a long life but in a scared, guarded, anxious, measured, controlled way? Always worried, always saying no, always sitting at home? Do I want to live well, open and seeing and drinking in all that life has for me, trusting that the day I leave in spirit is the day planned for me all along?”
It’s challenging to ask these questions, especially as a mother of six children. We mothers look into the eyes of our children and want to protect them from all harm, grief, and hardship. We want to live wisely. But what does that really mean? I know that I don’t know. I thought I knew and now I wonder. I am getting curious again.
The week leading up to New Year’s Eve I went to Target and bought canisters of confetti. Six of them. I didn’t recognize myself. I thought, “Confetti, Aimee?! Have you lost your mind?!” Confetti shines and sticks and it finds its way into couches, rug piles, fuzzy socks and tucked-away corners. I hate messes, I hate glitter, I hate seeing how that kind of stuff seems to stay around for months and makes babies somehow.
Grief and loss opened my eyes again to the gift of celebration. The deep losses and guttural tears also give me the ability to appreciate heights of joy and the sweetest connections. I am not guaranteed another year, and my brother didn’t get one. Experiencing loss can transform celebrations to be richer, more gracious and more tolerant if we allow them to. My brother loved New Year’s Eve, and I wanted to enter into that joy too.
For me, confetti represented a choice to lay aside my “need” to control and instead, to embrace silly and shiny connection and the celebration of something new.
My purchasing confetti is not cave diving or exploring the depths like my brother did, but it was a small, tangible step towards a life that lives open, celebratory, and unafraid. Who cares if I vacuum it up for a month? With every gold shimmer that I spy, I smile. Confetti is not a roadblock to order and beauty, but a reminder of all the beauty and connection in my life.
Confetti makes me happy because it whispers to my controlling spirit, “Life is too short to clean and organize tthe holidays away! Live on the domestic edge and allow joy and art and laughter and feasting have its glorious, seasonal way!”
And so in 2017, I plan to celebrate more. #habitsofcelebration. I won’t take myself or my role so stifling seriously and will take my own set of risks that are small and meaningful. I will seek to dive to the depths of laughter and joy, beauty and connection, within my own lifestyle, home, and community. My path won’t ever look like my brother’s journey did, nor should it. But the themes of our lives will intersect and his will inspire my own to be more authentic, curious, adventurous and filled with the beauty of the world.