Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Worst Day of Someone Else's Life

The first thought I had when I woke was “Today is going to be the worst day of someone’s life. But it’s not mine.”

We buried a man that day. I knew from the minute I woke that the depth of suffering I would witness would astonish me. I’d truthfully never seen anything like that.

The only funeral I had attended before that was the one for Charlie’s grandmother. It was a modest affair, she was an old woman with few friends and a very small family.

I missed my own grandmother’s funeral. I was in Hawaii.

But here I was, at the service of a man I’d known only by association, a good friend to my father-in-law. Through the service I thought mostly about his daughter who is not much older than me. I thought about losing your father. About losing my own father.

This is the worst day of her life so far, I kept thinking.

I have a friend whose kid has neuroblastoma and my friend writes frequently of the worst days as he experiences them. When they go in for treatments, he knows they’ll be tough and the poor boy will suffer and watching your kid suffer is the worst kind of Hell.


Does my friend wake thinking, “Today is going to be another worst day of my life.”

Or does he wake hoping it’ll be someone else’s worst day, not his son’s and not his?

I usually think this could be the best day of my life: I’m awake, I have great work to do and fun people to meet and I get to see family and friends and maybe be entertained by a game or a show or a book.

I usually wake thinking, “This is going to be someone’s best day yet. It could be mine.”

So on the day of Jimmy Head’s funeral, knowing it was going to be someone’s worst day, I suddenly realized that every day there’s someone having the worst day ever. Someone losing a baby, someone getting fired, someone wrecking a car, someone going to jail.

And every day is someone’s best day. Someone getting married, having a child, winning a game, getting promoted, buying their dream house. 

Someone being told their book will be published.

Someone hearing themselves being called “Doctor” for the first time.

Someone getting to sit across the table from her sister.

Someone getting to catch his kid jumping off the school bus into waiting arms.

Jimmy’s daughter did not look like she was suffering the way I imagined she would. Maybe she was numb, maybe she was holding it together for her own kids, maybe she didn’t even know we were there or what was happening. Maybe the words of faith shared during the service provided real comfort to her.

The truth is I don’t know her very well. I also don’t know grief very well. I’ve been so very, very lucky so far.

And each day I remind myself that there are infinite possibilities for the day. It could be the day I sign a giant client and take my business toward the stratosphere. It could be the day I seriously fuck up and lose the clients I have.

And the not knowing could be paralyzing. But it’s not. It’s invigorating. It means every day matters. It’s what people mean when they say, “Make it count.” Make every day count.


There’s so much to be grateful for. So much to look forward to. 

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