How death changed my perspective

I've been thinking about this for years, especially since I seem to have experienced a lot over the past decade (I want to write about it all here, but instead I talk about it offline with sympathetic people).

In 2006, when John Deaver was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in less than a month, my view of friends and people I like changed forever. Before he was sick, I communicated with him usually via email, but I always assumed he'd be around. So I took him for granted. That's not unusual; there are a lot of people in our lives who we expect to live for a while because they're not elderly and aren't ill. But surprisingly, he had advanced colon cancer which spread to his brain, and his life was cut short.

After that, when I would meet someone I like, I would make an effort to stay in touch and would compliment them and let them know about the positive feelings I felt. I didn't do that with John. I remember when he'd just had brain surgery, and he could barely talk. He seemed like a content child. I shared how I felt, but I knew time was running out. Since then, I'd be sure to be honest with people and try to encourage them. I also realized that the relationships we have should be valued. That means I want to connect with others in a real way and not waste time on trivialities or tiresome games.

I think some people think I'm weird. That's probably because they haven't experienced such an awakening. So as I've become more sensitive, honest, and wanting to realistically connect, many people have not. They're on their own tracks, pursuing what they want. I used to be the same way; I had my tasks and goals, and I went about trying to get them done. I'd see people along the way, but I didn't really consider their worth.

What's resulted is a frequent analysis of how people, especially Americans (since I'm American and have been in the US most of my life), relate to others. We are in a country where we can pretty much live how we want. We can pursue our dreams, meet lots of people, and travel on our own individual path. American life is fantastic in that way. There aren't many cultural rules that emerge from a long history; we're a young country and there is so much variety, we can pretty much shape our destinies. We can establish something in one city, make friends, join clubs, then move somewhere else and start again. Those friends we make are situational, and we might maintain contact on social media, but we don't really have to do much because new people can be found wherever we are.

I guess I was a typical American in that way. Since John's death, and the deaths of family and others over the years (and witnessing serious illnesses), I've realized that people really matter. I don't even know how to define a friend at this point because a lot people operate at a busy pace, getting their stuff done. If something were to seriously happen, who would show up? I've noticed people say kind things when something serious happens, but then they're back to their own grids.

I wonder if other people have noticed what I have, or what they think. Many people have written about social isolation, and that could be another post. But does the typical person think about their view of others' roles in life? Maybe death will make them think about it.

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