Over the past year I've lost some significant folks from my life. As with many approaching our sixth decade, losing loved ones begins to happen a bit too frequently and brings a new kind of sadness; one filled with gratitude for time shared and regret over moments that will never be. Because even though we know innately one cannot live forever on this earth, the heart wants to be able to share another cup of coffee, wade in the waves along the shore or share a secret laugh one more time. And to some extent the heart (at least once we reach my age) begins to better understand our time on earth is limited.
Listening to Robin Roberts interview Valerie Harper on Good Morning America about a year ago when Valerie had just been given a terminal diagnosis, I was struck by Valerie's continued ability to remain "in the game"… engaging fully in her life despite her prognosis. And somehow even though we've all heard it said in differing ways so many times before ("Life is not a dress rehearsal." or "Live each day like it is your last."), Valerie's words, "Don't go to my funeral until my funeral." impacted me to my core. Could this in part be because Robin, with all she faced personally at that time, was doing the interview? Both women certainly walk their talk, insisting to the universe that their lives will be lived on their terms, and according to their rules. …and they’ve refused to succumb to the negative. They are two women who have always, always given life their all, fully grasping the importance of celebrating life and honoring those they cherish.
How blessed are we that both these strong women have chosen to share their journeys with us? What better role models could we ask for our daughters, for our sons, for ourselves?
So, unbeknownst to me, the seed of Cherished Ones implanted itself in me that day when I asked myself, “How might I better honor my loved ones, living and passed, in a way that truly could bring forth their spirit?”
Those we cherish share our lives, and are there to guide us, teach us, laugh with us, cry with us and love us. They are our friends, parents, children, four legged faithful companions… And we all have stories of cherished ones lost. I’d like to share with you just a few snippets taken from an amazing friend’s eulogy, a real tribute from her family and one that fully embraced her essence. She was ageless and at 89 had planned on spending her 90th birthday having dinner with our circle of friends before jetting off with her eight children, their spouses, grandchildren and even some great-grandchildren to celebrate the beginning of her next decade in the islands. She never got the chance; God had other plans for her.
Our fair friend taught her kids to skinny-dip, know the value of a true apology and to listen before speaking. She was an early believer in the power of attitude. And as her children grew she searched for her own identity and even attended women's seminars long before they were the norm. Her happy hours were legendary (I cannot imagine our lake without them). When her husband of almost 70 years passed away she continued on, driving her red golf cart to the lake, strolling onto the dock and climbing into the water intent on spending the next hour or so having a beverage (or two) with her girls. That's what we were, her girls. I loved that in my fifties she referred to me as the kid.
Her daughter shared with us that her mom, after losing her husband, very humanely wondered aloud if she'd done enough with her life. It is a question that is hard to get through life without asking. Her children had tried to assure her that in nurturing her family and living her passions, even if that hadn't looked very grand in all its loose ends and imperfections, had certainly been more than enough. We were reminded of a quote by Allan Cohen, "It is more valuable to touch a small number of people in a quality way than to amass fame or fortune." And it is her daughter's voice at the funeral that I will remember when I think of my friend.
“Mom, you touched a pretty large number of people in a quality way by finding what made you come alive and by living that truth. Like the proverbial pebble tossed in the lake, your ripple effect was very wide. We thank you for being our mother, our teacher, our friend and we wish you well on your new adventure.”
True to her teachings the family took that vacation, and celebrated her life by creating memories that will live in the hearts of their next generations.
By the time Remy and I met, she had been running her business for a decade and I was focused on business development consulting. Our initial business relationship lasted as long as it took for us to realize we shared a deeper passion. Remy was working on a book to honor her grandparents, preserving cherished memories for her family. I had spent the past few years consulting with an elder law attorney, hearing tales from clients about their families and of the legacy they hoped to leave behind. Our stories started us thinking about the ripple effect, and perhaps how we might all better come alive and live our own truths. And so discussions centered on how we might honor our loved ones began. She shared stories of her grandparents, I of my older friend, of my father and others. We talked about favored pets. And eventually we realized both of us wanted to feel passionate about our work, and felt the need to give back for all we’d been blessed by in our lives.
Cherished Ones came about during a weekend planning session for her business at my cottage in March of 2014. We started talking about wanting to create a life that wasn’t ruled by our jobs… and things evolved from there. We considered our options (drop shipping goods, etc.), perusing the net for unique products. Remy fell in love with one in particular. However we’d already agreed that we wanted to focus on the memorial and/or pet industries as we searched. This product was not part of either industry. And our “re-imagining” approach to a business began and our first product was “born”.
We are excited to launch Cherished Ones and are anticipating our first product release in July. We truly hope our venture will help people move from mourning the loss of a loved one to celebrating their life. May we all embrace our lives and those we cherish, giving gratitude and filling each and every day with laughter. And may we daily create memories that will live on in our hearts when our cherished ones no longer walk beside us.
*Thanks to the Reilly clan, and especially to Ruth, for one of the best tributes to a mom ever.