Renee Winick mug

Renee Winick

Recently, I found myself back in a familiar place. One that I’d rather not have to visit so often. I was once again in the greeting card aisle, looking for a sympathy card.

Over the past couple of years, far too many of my family and friends have lost loved ones or they themselves have passed on. While facing these losses, I am finding myself continually asking the question, “Why?”

Of course, there is never a clear answer to that question; but I am starting to realize that there are lessons that we can learn from loss.

Some of the people who recently passed were blessed with a long life. Many, however, were taken from their loved ones far too soon. No matter how long they were on this earth, they left behind people who wished to have been given more time with them. They likely also left behind dreams and goals that were unfulfilled.

It is commonly understood that nobody is guaranteed a long life. Despite this, I think we sometimes become complacent, and maybe even a bit arrogant, and think we have plenty of time to do all the things on our life’s bucket list.

I’m not suggesting that you empty your bank account today and take a trip around the world. I would, however, recommend not keeping all of your plans for travel, adventure, personal growth, or even new a career path for tomorrow.

I’ve learned something else over the last couple of years. Whether or not those who passed had gone through a prolonged illness or died suddenly, all of their loved ones were devastated and not ready to say good-bye. However, the family and friends of the ones who’d gone through a longer illness found some comfort in the fact that they’d been given the chance to have those important, heart-felt conversations.

My take away from this is that we need say the important stuff now, since we don’t know if there will be an opportunity to say them later. This not only means telling those closest to us how you feel about them; it also means that your family should know where to find your important documents and understand your final wishes. These aren’t easy conversations to have, but they are incredibly important.

I also realized something pretty remarkable. Each of the individuals that passed away left behind their own personal legacy. When people shared memories of their loved ones, there was often a common theme in what they cherished most about these people. Maybe it was a generous spirit, a ready smile, a love of family, an unwavering faith, or a passion for helping others.

Each of these remembrances is a precious gift left behind for us to hold close to our hearts and to give us peace during difficult days. They may also call us to action to continue our loved ones’ great works.

That naturally brings us to the questions: What will be our legacy? Have we made life better for those around us? Have we consistently worked to show others kindness and grace? These questions will likely cause a good deal of self-reflection and maybe a bit of apprehension.

Here’s the good news: You can live a life today that will create the legacy you desire in the future. Instead of fretting about whether or not people will have wonderful memories to share about you, you can create those memories right now. It’s never too late to start living a life that you’d be proud to have remembered and celebrated.

It’s definitely been a rough couple of years. One of the toughest things that many of us have experienced is the loss of people we’ve deeply loved. Facing the onslaught of such sadness could easily bring a person into deep despair.

My challenge to you is to take all of the negativity and turn it into something positive. Find your lessons in loss and use what you’ve learned to brighten the space around you. What better way to honor those who’ve left this world than by making this world a little bit better? Let’s make goodness and grace their unending legacy.

Renee Winick has lived in Prior Lake for nearly two decades, where she resides with her husband and twin son and daughter.