Miss the Dead, Not the Living


I really miss my dad.

Since he passed away suddenly almost four years ago, the grief of losing him has been a constant companion, always lurking just out of sight, waiting to interrupt my day with an ambush of sadness or tears or memories.

And every time it happens I am reminded how great a vacancy his leaving has left in my life and my family and my heart. The sucker punch of pain comes and it levels me again.

But I’m okay with this. This grief is the heavy tax on loving him and being loved by him.

He’s not here anymore. I’m supposed to miss him.

But there are people I miss everyday who I should never miss:

I miss my wife when I become so absorbed in the daily urgency of my work and my own self-importance, that I neglect to tend to her wounds or to celebrate her successes or to see her fully.

I miss my kids every time I view them as a nuisance or an inconvenience, or half-listen when they tell me stories that mean the world to them, or when I fail to notice how quickly they are changing.

I miss my mom when I let too many days go by before I call, easily procrastinating away the time because I think I’ll always have it.

I miss my siblings when I allow the paths of our adult lives to make our time together less and less frequent.

I miss my friends when I don’t look deeply enough to see their hidden hurts or linger long enough to really know them or be known by them.

I miss all the people in my path as a sprint blindly past them, my head in my phone or my eyes always focused far in the distance on the next supposedly critical moment I’m furiously headed toward.

I miss my own glorious, miraculous life, second by second because I am rarely ever fully present at any given moment; so seldom being where I am and who I am with.

You may not have this problem.

Maybe you are completely awake and alive and available to the people around you.

But if you’re at all like me, then I want to remind you to live.

Don’t take time for granted, because trust me—don’t have as much as you think you do.

Give people your full attention because they deserve it, and because a time will come when you will gladly give up anything you have for another few seconds with them.

While you have more than just photographs and memories, be with the people you share your life with. Look them in the eyes. Really see them.

Make the call you think you’ll get to later.

Say the things you need to say now, even if the words aren’t perfect.

Grab someone you love and do something reckless and impulsive and wasteful.

Pull your spouse closely to you, notice how they feel in your arms. Press your face to their hair and breathe them in.

Put down the work that seems so very necessary and snuggle up with your child beneath a blanket. listen to them talk about what matters to them—and make it matter that much to you.

And for God’s sake, step away from the computer for a bit, and instead of frittering away your days straining for the momentary approval of relative strangers, receive the love you already have from those who know you best, even if it is messier or more difficult. That’s how you know it’s real.

I am going to miss my dad for the rest of my time here. That’s my only option now. It’s the best I can do and so I do it as well as I can.

You’ve lost people you love too, so I know you get that.

But you and I are surrounded by those who we don’t have to miss, who aren’t relegated to our past, who we can see and touch and hold and dance with—so let’s do it all.

Today, choose to live with those who are alive.

It’s okay to miss the dead.

Just don’t miss the living.






12 thoughts on “Miss the Dead, Not the Living

  1. What a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing this! We recently lost someone in a shocking and reckless accident. He was just 18. We took him in to love him and support him and it was going so well. One day I felt urged to write him a little letter letting him know how much he was valued, loved and accepted. I am so glad I did, even though I didn’t know why I felt prompted to do this as he was only with us a week at that time, and we expected him to be with us for several months. He was dating our daughter, had come from a very tragic family situation, ended up homeless. We enrolled him in school and helped him get a job…and then my daughter found him dead in his bedroom from a reckless act. Just 15 days after he came to live with us. It’s been almost four months and we grieve daily, BUT, I am so glad I listened to that prompting so he knew he was loved, seen, valued. He wasn’t the sum total of his mistakes, but worthy of second chances and acceptance. We need to remember to love in action and in words as often as possible with as many people as possible. Thank you again, John, for that reminder.

  2. Bravo John. Thank you for those beautiful words. They could have been written for me as I just lost my dad.

    I am sorry to admit that I am also guilty of all the things you mentioned and by the Grace of our Lord may he change me into his heavenly image (and any others who so desire).

    My Dad “Ole” passed away on June 11th, 2016 with his family by his side. He was ready to be with the Lord as he lived a full life of 82 years of loving and serving others. He was a simple, yet tough and rugged “pig farmer” from the descendants of Sweden. He married a Norwegian who actually had the same last name. Actually, it’s even more strange than that. It was 2 brothers marrying two sisters. The brothers and cousins are more like brothers than “cousins”.

    “Ole” always cared for the less fortunate and brought many into our home who, at the time, had no other place to stay. I can’t wait to see him again and tell him how proud I am of him and how much I love him.

    Was he perfect? No. But he always tried to be kind, hardworking, honest, and sincere. He always stood up to watch over the “little one”. He is now with my mom who left us in 1976 when I was 7.

    Thank you John for this beautiful reminder. It is just what I needed today.


  3. Thank you john for this beautiful post. My beloved mom passed away a year ago tomorrow and not a day has gone by that I do not miss her terribly. Never had the chance to say goodbye but then I am not sure we would have been able to do that or get through that conversation. I still have my dad who is 94 and try to be with him as much as possible putting other things aside. My only hope is that I will see my mom again one day – I do so hope so.

  4. My young brother died when I was 27 and it colored my world for many years knowing I would get to do what he never did. Other deaths of course have happened through the years but nothing prepared me for the life-changing sudden death of my husband this past October. I’m in a new reality and smack on the painful path toward the unknown. My kids miss him terribly as well as my grandchildren but the every day, the daily things that only a spouse can miss have been devastating. I’d like to say we never took things for granted and connected in every moment but I don’t think that’s true of anyone, in the midst of day to day living. I do know that I’m more conscious, with everyone around me, to make sure I say the “I love you’s” every moment I can; to try to be present because the clarity of having life taken in a nano-second is all too real and recent.
    Even as I say this, I can take what you wrote to heart, John, because at times I’m sure my own ‘missing’ may distract me from someone else’s present. Thank you for always getting to the heart of the human.

  5. And sometimes there is no other recourse. You cannot say want you want to say. To have moments back again. The “miss” is all you have to hang on to.

  6. I just wrote a post on my own blog about this very thing, John. I read an essay from The Book of LIfe about how hard it is to live in the present. Since my husband died, just four years ago, I’ve been unable to construct a future. The future was an enigma. I’m becoming a little better, but that death put my life squarely in the present moment, the only moment I could fathom. The past wasn’t a safe place, and the future was inconceivable. Am doing better now. But I am *thankful* to live in the present. It is a small silver lining around the huge black cloud of my husband’s passing.

  7. And they listen.  They listen to our prayers and eulogies, our anger, our sadness.  And they watch.  They watch us cry, sleep, and cry some more.  They watch us slowly put our lives back together.  They feel joy when we have a victory over our grief. Honor the dead.  Share your joy and love with them.  Cast love energy their way.  And try to feel the love energy they’re casting back at you.  A medium can help you reconnect, but a medium is unnecessary if you open your heart and remember that the dead don’t leave us, so they don’t miss us.  Remember them and cherish your memories.  You can keep the connection alive by talking to them and acknowledging their presence at special family events.

  8. Great article. Most of us learn too late. All of the drama with loved ones, and then poof-they’re gone-just like we will be in an instant. We all think we have so much time. We don’t. Everything then becomes quiet-silent. Except the sound of regrets. The smiles we didn’t give to those we cared about-the support-the understanding-the encouragement-the love. Don’t think anyone learns really until it’s quiet-with the ones you miss floating in your memory only. If only I knew then, what I’ve learned now-I would have changed a few things. The tears in my heart that wouldn’t be there-only-if only-I had made those I miss feel fantastic about themselves every time I was with them. To see their eyes light up-there souls happy.
    I wish-I still wish-and carry the chains around with me-those heavy, heavy chains-of regret and sorrow for what I should have been-to them. Learn from me.

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