Our family has been grieving the loss of my sister-in-law to cancer. Tara was only 36. Along with my brother, she leaves behind two children, aged eight and six. I didn’t know how—or even if—I could write a story about her.
But instead of telling a sad story about what we’ll miss, I thought it better to share the lessons she unknowingly taught through her life.
Though her life was short, Tara lived it fully. It may be commonly said of the dead but she really was one of a kind. I’ve never met anyone like her and will probably never encounter anyone with a comparable blend of passion, quirkiness and purpose. Tara was truly unique. She was a beautiful soul that would want us to focus more on joy than sorrow.
So in honor of Tara, allow me to share things I learned from her that she didn’t intentionally teach. They are life lessons I’ll never forget and I hope they inspire you as well.
Let your passions be reflected in your actions.
Many of our lives lack passion, or at the least, we fail to show it. I can go through the motions each day without leaving an impact on those I meet or the places I go. I can collect stuff and spend time consuming instead of contributing. How easy it is to go through life not showing people (even those closest to us) who we are or what we stand for—we can simply exist.
But not Tara. Anyone who met her couldn’t question what she was passionate about. She loved decorating, creativity, art, fashion—anything that brought beauty into the world. When people speak of her, her creativity and artistic gift were a common theme. Those were her passions and she unreservedly reflected them in her life.
How many of us could say the same?
It should force us to question what makes us excited and if it is evident to those around us. Our passions should motivate and lead us to make a meaningful impact on and contribution to this world. If we live only for ourselves, we’ve missed the point of life. There are passions within each of us—whether it be helping others, creating, building, or encouraging—that yearn to be used for the good of others.
Discover your passions, find ways they can be used to benefit others, and live it out so it’s evident to all.
Reserve time and energy for those most important in your life.
In Tara’s final days, the number of people around her got smaller. She limited visitors, knowing how little time and energy she had left. She reserved it for those that mattered most. It’s a beautiful lesson to learn, even for those not facing terminal illness.
Too often we feel obligated to keep in touch with everyone we’ve met over the years. We spread ourselves thin trying to maintain too many relationships and we give away valuable time and energy out of misplaced obligation. It is an ongoing challenge to limit that because some will be offended if they’re excluded from your inner circle but I believe it’s a necessary risk.
Instead of giving a little of myself to many I would much rather give all of myself to a few.
I didn’t get to say goodbye to Tara and I realize others may have felt hurt not getting that chance either. But not me. I think she made an admirable decision. Instead of giving that precious time to everyone, she wisely chose to invest all she had left in those most important to her.
We needn’t wait for terminal illness to value our time because life is unpredictable and often outside our control. You need to see the value of your time and energy. They are limited—between work, family and hobbies there isn’t much to spare—so give wisely. In sickness or health, there will always be people who demand or expect your time and energy but you can choose when and to whom you give.
I urge you to be discerning but when you give, give it all.
Profound. Simple. Beautiful. Tara’s final message to the world. Without prompting, she captured the purpose of our short lives on earth. All of the things we consume, collect and experience don’t matter because none of it lasts. Love is the only thing that outlives us and gives deeper meaning to everything we go through.
We can easily waste time and energy fretting about meaningless stuff. I’m guilty of giving an over-inflated purpose to so many meaningless causes, while forgetting the underlying simplicity of our calling.
Tara outlined it for us. Love. Give and receive love. That’s it.
What better way to give love than by living out our passions and by giving our time, energy and skills for the benefit of others. Receive love by letting people do the same for you. If we all played our part, imagine how different the world would be. The world may be broken but you have a choice.
You can choose to love and you can allow yourself to be loved. When your end comes, love will go on.
Thank you T, for the important life lessons. I hope your life inspires others—even those who never had the fortune of meeting you—and your impact is felt for generations to come.