Why don’t we always realize someone’s impact on our life while they are with us? Last week, I lost a friend who made an incredible impact on my life. Before that, I never really worried about losing a friend. I always thought I would have more time. I thought we were too young to worry about that.
Even when my friend Carrie was diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago, I thought she would get through it. She was healthy, she was strong, she was one of the most determined people I knew. Her husband and her three sweet boys needed her. She had a thriving business. She was full of life, love, and passion.
As I grieve the loss of this incredible person and grieve for her husband and kids and for everyone who loved her, I am so thankful to have had her in my life. It hurts that she is not here any more, and it also hurts that I didn’t take all of the opportunities I had to be a friend to her, to spend time, to share, to go deeper in our friendship.
This is the opposite of the way I think sometimes (and I’m sure I’m not the only one). We let insecurities and fear come into play. We think that in order to not be hurt, we need to withdraw. We think somehow we will be protected from pain if we don’t get too close to other people. And the truth is, while growing in relationship or getting rejected sometimes can be painful, the beauty of a real friendship far outweighs the pain. And after a true friend is gone, the thing that hurts is the withdrawing, not the reaching out.
I am thankful I told Carrie how much she meant to me before she was gone. I don’t have deep regrets, mostly gratitude for the friendship we did have. But I do wish I could go back and change a few things. And absolutely none of it has to do with wishing I hadn’t invested so much, or wishing I hadn’t spent so much time with her, or that I had protected myself more. “Protecting ourselves” and withdrawing because of our own insecurities doesn’t protect us at all. It drives us to do the opposite of what is really healthy and good for us and our relationships.
Things I wish I could change
I wish I had asked more questions and soaked up more of the amazing wisdom that she had.
I wish I had told her how much I really appreciated her before she got sick, instead of waiting until the end.
I wish I had opened up to her more about my struggles. She was so good at this, and I often let my own fear of rejection keep me from doing the same.
I wish we had spent more time together.
I can’t change these things now, but I can commit to doing these things in my friendships moving forward.
Six Important Things I learned from Carrie’s Life
This is just a little bit of how amazing she was. She showed me by her example:
- Every person is a gift with something beautiful to offer the world.
- Carrie took the time to see what was special and unique about people. Because of this, she had a gift to really encourage, celebrate, and connect people in meaningful ways.
- Take time to get to know people. Ask questions, spend time with them, really listen to their answers. You can learn something from everyone.
- Don’t let insecurities stop you from telling people how you feel.
- We hear it all the time, but life really is too short.
- Carrie was good at heartfelt appreciation. She told me more than once how much she appreciated me. She encouraged and affirmed me. She made me want to do the same for others.
- There are people out there who will love you and support you unconditionally.
- You don’t have to settle for friends who judge or criticize or try to feel better by putting down your ideas. A true friend will respect your point of view, even when they don’t agree.
- Carrie’s love for people showed me there are plenty of people who will offer support without judging, and it’s okay to open up about our struggles.
- When you open up, you may get hurt, but it is also your opportunity to experience unconditional love. There are so many beautiful people in the world. If someone hurts you because you say the wrong thing, it doesn’t mean you are not worthy of love. It says more about their inability to love. Keep looking, because there are people who will love you for you.
- There is never a reason to control or manipulate people.
- Carrie was clear about who she was and what she needed. She didn’t try to get what she needed or wanted from people who weren’t willing or able to give.
- If someone said no to something, she realized that is just where they’re at, and that’s ok. She also had a community of friends who could help meet a need if someone couldn’t.
- It’s important to make room in your life for community.
- We need each other. I desperately crave the kind of love and friendship that Carrie gave. I want give that kind of friendship to others. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It just starts with listening and accepting.
- It may take a while to find those people who love and accept you back. But it’s worth it.
- Take pictures together (even the non-Pinterest-worthy ones).
- At Carrie’s funeral, many of us said we wished there were more pictures of us together with her. We took lots of pictures of the kids, but not of us moms. A friend suggested we get a selfie right there at lunch, red teary eyes and all. I know I will treasure this picture, despite feeling like I look like a mess.
- There were boards full of pictures of Carrie’s beautiful, radiant face at all stages and all seasons of life, not just the perfect moments. I know she always expressed that she didn’t like having pictures taken. But what I could see was, she did it anyway.
- I saw a picture on one of the boards that I remember ducking out of. I had just had a baby and a major surgery, and I did not feel at all like myself. I felt insecure, and overweight, and tired. The last thing I wanted that day was to be in a picture…. but now I wish I could get in that picture with her.
Carrie meant so much to me and everyone that was around her, and the stories and love that were present at her funeral were amazing. I am SO thankful for her, and the way she is still in my life through the friends she introduced me to, and the lessons she taught me.
I hope and pray that every person reading this can meet and know someone as amazing as her. And I hope these lessons from her life can change your friendships for the better as well.