Don’t Give up : Finding Gratitude through the Loss of My Friend & Business Partner
I remember looking down at this bowl of soup thinking, “This is what chicken soup for the soul looks like.” I stood next to the stove while my friend Emily took the ingredients and gracefully combined them to make such a warm heartfelt meal. I remember taking the spatula she was stirring the soup with and giving it a few turns so that I felt as though I had contributed something to this wonderful cooking experience. Sitting in front of that soup, I was overcome with an intense feeling of gratitude. She made this for us. I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped a photo.
That was Thursday, January 26, 2012. Emily and I had met to start the outline of the business we had been tossing around for a few years. I had recently moved the next neighborhood over. She had recently had her kitchen remodeled, and so we sat at the table and started to write. There was no sneaking suspicion this might be my last dinner with Emily. There was nothing that made me think about the past or future. Because we were right there, at the table, present in our current moment. I still have the notes hanging in my studio. I wanted to remember this moment, this night. Right now. Forever.
And that is exactly what Emily and I wanted to do; help people tell their stories and document their moments. Emily, an incredible journalist, had this way of asking the perfect question to get the most incredible information. It was almost as if her questions where knobs to a spigot of personal information. And she turned it so gingerly, with such trust and ease, that her interviewee was ready to share, ready to tell the parts of the story that she craved to know about. I always wanted to be a journalist. Listening to Emily talk about her job was with mixed emotion. She wanted more stories. More of a “personal” element to her work. And me, I wanted to craft them into beautiful pages full of color and vibrancy to be handed down generation to generation. We both shared a love for book binding and had taken a few classes in the year prior. It was all part of our research. Could we learn this art and use it in our business? The answer was a resounding yes. We started talks about building the studio in Emily’s attic. We shared ideas about developing a community day in our neighborhood to encourage people to start telling their stories and we could scan, print and bind them into one local story. The ideas kept coming like this for years. Flowing like a raging river of inspiration.
Emily was my entrepreneurial cheerleader. She encouraged me to chase tenaciously the makings of my dreams. She supported me when the walls of my cubicle felt like they were closing in on me as I typed to her over Google chat through the tears. We had our monthly dinners where we would haphazardly register domain names on my phone for potential biz names we envisioned using. We were ripe with hope and full with anticipation of what it would be like to feel the freedom and fulfillment of our own business pursuits. When it came to naming our business we had done a little brainstorming session about four years ago. Emily sketched out this paper (pictured). I remember asking her if I could hold onto the paper that day. Three years later, while rebuilding my site, I asked Emily if I could name my blog Everlasting Present, which is one of the names that came out on that paper from a quote. She encouraged me to use the name. It was one of the greatest gifts she ever gave me. This paper is now framed and hanging in my studio.
There are moments that we can pinpoint in our lives where we changed. We graduate. We fall in love. We get hurt. We locate our passion. We experience loss. They are dog-eared pages in the journey of our lives. My moments with Emily are all like that - brimming over with passion, enthusiasm, and love. When I got the email on April 15th that Emily had been in a car accident and wouldn’t survive her injuries, I remember my life freezing, my breath caught in my chest, knowing, in that moment, that everything was changing. Every. Thing. Changed.
I remember clutching the iPad thinking that this couldn’t be real. That life wouldn’t play out this way. That everything was just starting. That I hadn’t said I loved her. That I didn’t say how much she meant to me. That I missed an opportunity to express my gratitude. I remember rushing to my living room. Calling my mom. Mouth open, screaming, without a sound coming out. This is what it felt like to lose someone that you never knew how much they meant to your existence until they were gone. This is what it felt like. This. It was clear after diving back into chats and emails that I did tell her a lot of those things. Actually we shared our gratitude and love quite frequently in our exchanges. This brought me much comfort.
The next few days moved in a blur. There was lots of writing, sharing, and community around Emily’s passing. There were over fifty people that I connected with out of honoring her memory. There were memorial services. There was this yearning for everything to be different. There were doves everywhere and what seemed like signs of her all around. There was a sadness mixed with gratitude that I experienced unlike any I’ve ever felt before. Emily taught me how to believe in our dreams while she was alive. And in her passing, Emily taught me how to keep going, how our work was more important than ever and how there is a different type of beauty + gratitude in recovery + evolution from loss.
This past Thursday marked four months since Emily’s passing. The range of emotions I feel around and on this date is indescribable. But I always turn toward the gratitude. In those four months I’ve been continuing to write our plan, talk to as many people I can about memory keeping, and just keeping moving the ball forward. I stay close to the values Emily demonstrated daily which include generosity, humor, gratitude, kindness, and love. I wanted to share this story with you because I want the world to know how many lives Emily touched. I want the world to know how she changed me and enriched my life through her passion + excitement.
We’ve got to do what we love. I feel like, especially on the internet, we talk about it at length. We pass around and share inspirational stories, videos and quotes on social networks and blogs. And it is so simple to measure our work against others. But really, we have to choose what we LOVE + DO the work. Choose it. Make it happen. No matter what. Any way big or small because NOTHING is guaranteed. I do this by making something with paper every day. Whether I share it on my blog or not, I do it because I love it.
I am here today to share Emily’s and my own passion for life documentation + an entrepreneurial lifestyle. I am here today to implore you to start telling your story. In a journal, on a blog, or in emails you send to a separate account. Your story matters. It’s an integral element to the delicate fabric of the human race. Your moments are monumental, big or small, because they make you who you are. Share your journey in whatever way feels right for you. Just remember to leave someone the key to your story. It’s your legacy. It deserves to be told and shared.
Each day I work to do one thing for our business. I drop into the Basecamp docs we started and add some notes. I write Emily an email. I talk about what I want to ultimately do – take the mobile storytelling show on the road. Each day I choose to invest energy into our dream even if it is just a vision or a thought. Because it is as important now as it was then. Because even in loss, the work is still as important, if not more. Because Emily would want me to keep going. Because life is still moving, and there are still so many stories to be cherished, told, and preserved.
If you are at a crossroads in your business building, much like me, find space and pause. But don’t give up. Just keep going. The road tends to unfold in front of you when you least expect it.
Be Calm. Be Strong. Be Grateful.
|Megan Collier calls herself a Creative Inspirationalist. She's a believer in the present moment and capturing them in creative ways. She brings a contagious enthusiasm to documenting your life's most important events and creating custom keepsakes for making your memories an everlasting moment to treasure. |
Megan hangs at her crafty corner of the web to share her creative inspiration, projects, and workshops with the world; helping busy people find simple ways to document life’s most precious moments.