How Tragedy Jolted Me Awake

Whether you realize it or not, most of us are caught up in the “flow” of life. Do you feel it?

To-do lists, work, running the kids around – these things can consume us. We wake up, run around, come home, go to sleep and wake up to start the whole process over again.

If you’re anything like I was (and frankly, I can still be this way), there aren’t many moments taken to “stop and smell the roses.” When you’re caught up in the flow, it’s not easy to be present because that’s all you’re focusing on.

This changed for me 4 years ago when a tragedy rocked my world and forever changed the way I look at the “daily grind.”

“Is your mom there? Can I talk to her?”

I recognized the caller ID but not the voice on the other end. My uncle. He called my parents’ house, which is where my husband and I were visiting for Sunday dinner, but something didn’t seem right. He didn’t sound like himself, I almost didn’t even think it was him.

My mom snuck away to her walk-in closet to take the call. We had just started a movie, so my dad and husband seemed blissfully unaware that anything could be wrong.

I stood outside of my mom’s bedroom, trying to listen to her conversation. I couldn’t really hear anything, but the knots in my stomach knew something I didn’t.

Finally, the call ended and my mom seemed panicked. My uncle called to tell us that my other uncle (their brother) had been found under the ice in the pond behind his house and was being rushed to the hospital.

“And it doesn’t look good.”


I had so many questions, but there was no time. There were no answers anyway.

“We need to get Andy home and call your sister. We’re going to the hospital,” mom said, springing into action. I, on the other hand, wasn’t sure what to do.

I called my cousin to let her know. I also made a frantic call to my boss to tell him I wasn’t sure if I’d be at work the next day. I don’t know why, but it seemed practical at the time.

I had no idea what we were in for and my brain wouldn’t let me consider the possibility that my life as I knew it would change forever. In fact, my brain didn’t really come around to accepting this for some time. The denial stage of grief is real.

As devastating as the tragic loss of my uncle has been for me and my family, it’s opened my eyes in many ways. I am acutely aware that “the flow” of life, in the grand scheme of things, is merely a series of distractions from what really matters.

Sure, we all need to pay our bills, clean our homes and cut our grass, but in the end, very few of these endless tasks and responsibilities and events we fill our days with truly matter.

After reflecting all these years, I liken this experience to being shocked like a defibrillator – back to life and more awake to the preciousness of life on a good day; the triviality of our daily distractions on a not-so-good day.

I’ve come to wear this experience like a tattoo, permanently etched into my being. A constant reminder not to get too carried away by the flow, not to take myself so seriously and to cherish the things that matterr most and forget the rest.

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