The other day, I watched my mother take her last breath.
Reading by her bedside in the wee hours of the morning, there was a pause in the rhythm of her breathing. I looked up. She inhaled. Then exhaled, making a sound similar to a person who'd just finished drinking a full glass of mint iced tea on a July afternoon: Ahhhhh.
Then she was gone.
My mom's last two years were full of suffering, constantly in and out of hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Like a tennis ball batted around on a court, her prognoses were good, then sobering, then good, then sobering, then good again, then very sobering.
Throughout these times, my mom often reflected on whether she took the wrong path: if she took a different one in her life, would she be suffering less now?
I sometimes wonder the same when life gets hard.
My mom's pain made it difficult for her to remember all of the lives she selflessly touched. All of the examples she set. All of the smiles she set into motion. All of the people she reassured that all was well.
We don't always count the good that we do, but maybe we should. Each day. For a few breaths. Count the kindnesses that we share, the patience that we extend, the imperfections that we bear -- in ourselves and others. Life can get hard. Sometimes lonely. Renew a friendship or two today, starting with the one you have with yourself.