Living life fully and without regrets.
As I often say: Stop living this life like it’s a dress rehearsal. This is the show! There is only one performance. You don’t have time for fear and hesitation. Pursue your dreams. Be yourself. Love who you love, openly. Be free.
Also, stop procrastinating. Stop thinking that there is time later to do the thing you want to do. My brother was 58, only eight years older than me. He had talked about moving back to Louisiana, but didn’t want to dip into his retirement early and incur the penalty. He was going to do it next year. Well, next year never came. He never got to enjoy the money he had saved and buy the house he wanted.
He died renting a small apartment in Texas.
Prudence is honorable and ensuring that there are things to pass on to the next generation is necessary, but also live your life well right now. Tomorrow is not promised.
Lastly, how the South has shaped me as a writer.
This may be an odd lesson to come out of my brother’s death, but it was most definitely underscored.
I listened a lot this weekend and was reminded of how charmed I am by the beautiful, poetic way that Southerners, particularly Black people in the South, use language. For them, it is elastic and alive, and you don’t so much say words as sing them.
It was the way one relative came to drop off food, but didn’t want to stay long and crowd the immediate family. As she put it, “We’ll be here when the stillness comes.” Exquisite phrasing, packed full of meaning.
And it was the way the minister giving the eulogy said that he had stopped telling God thank you for waking him up every morning and started telling him thank you for waking him up 30 years ago, “when I was living as raggedy as a 10-cent mop.” No one on this planet can beat a Southerner in constructing a simile.