Saying Goodbye

And things left undone.

This week we are in Nebraska, to say goodbye to Mr. Montana’s mom. We had planned a trip later in the fall, but it looked like we didn’t have that much time. So we packed up in a day and drove 4 days straight to get here. We had a chance to say our goodbyes. She passed away a few days later on her 66th birthday.

This situation and being back in Nebraska has me thinking more about mini-retirements. More specifically the things we start now, and the things we plan to do later.

See, 5 years ago this summer, I was also in Nebraska for a funeral. That time it was for my oldest son, Micah. He had passed away at 20 years old.

I’ve written a number of challenging pieces over the years. But to write his obituary almost broke me.

Because the things I wanted to write most, he hadn’t done yet.

The list of things he had planned to do was long. And his time was cut short.

Worst yet, he hadn’t even started most of them.

But that’s true for a lot of us, isn’t it? It’s easy to put off the things most important to us. You know, until a better time. When we are older. Or more financially secure. Most laughably, when we will have more time.

In my mentoring programs, I talk a lot about “start small and scale”. Just start small, test it out, learn something, then do something a tiny bit bigger. But you have to start. Start on the things that matter most.

We come together for funerals to celebrate that list of things done. The deep meaningful relationships, the accomplishments, the contributions, the way that person impacted us and those around them.

But it’s the undone list, the things we planned to do later but never got around to that haunt us, don’t they? When we have to move the “someday” items to the never column. Relationships never healed. Dreams never fulfilled. Plans never accomplished. Conversations never had.

We mourn the person we lost. But we also mourn the list of things that move over to the never column.

My someday list is long. But I’ve started on them. Because I want my never column to be short. And there is no time like the present to start small and scale.


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29 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye

  1. Oh Jillian! I’m so sorry for y’all’s loss, both of them. I can’t imagine the pain to lose a child or my parent. But you are so awesome and strong. And encouraging to others even during this time. I’ve missed your words and posts, but I’m glad y’all made it to see her and say goodbye!

    • Thanks so much Ember. Next week we should be back full force. This was actually a good energizing and motivating time for me. It gave me a really strong desire to double down on my new mini-retirement course. If I have a chance to dramatically shorten people’s “never column”, I’ll pour in the work to make that happen. I really wish my MIL would have had the chance to take one or two mini-retirements while she was healthy, strong, and happy and do all those things they had planned.

      • As tough as the situation was, I’m so glad you feel renewed by it. Sometimes it takes things like that to remind us what our WHY is and what we need to do about it. I’m excited to hear more about your course! And glad you are back!

  2. First of all, so sorry for the loss of Mr. Montana’s mom. Glad you could make such a long trip to see her, hold her and say goodbyes.

    The phrase “wanting my never column to be short” is incredibly powerful and a jolt (in a good way) for me. As a “worrier”, I constantly look for the safest route, the stability, the security of a detailed plan. Yet the inner child in me is still there, care-free and bold and happy-go-lucky. Just need to find ways to encourage him out to play more……

    Thank you for sharing these words at a difficult time. And reminding us to keep that never column short. I love that phrase and concept.

    • I think the moving of things over to the never column is half of what makes saying goodbye so difficult. Having written my son’s obituary, I resolved that I don’t want mine to be filled with the things I had hoped to do, dreamed about and planned but never started. But come the end, I’d rather haved exhausted every opportunity to live well and true to myself. Failure or challenge seems like a small price to pay versus checking out with a long “never” list.

  3. I am so sorry for your sorry. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for you guys. Over the years, I have learned to slow things down and focus on the little things that make life precious. People are easily caught up with the rat race and got side-tracked.

    • It is important to slow down enough to be intentional and thoughtful in our choices and how we spend out time. With 5 little kids at home, I constantly have to balance the immediate needs with long term goals. Because the long term/high impact stuff doesn’t magically find a spot in my day.

  4. Sorry for your loses. So heartbreaking.

    My mom recently came to the conclusion that there are certain things on her bucket list – like traveling to the Great Wall of China and fishing/hiking in Pantagonia – that are just never going to happen because of her health. It’s something that is talked about in retirement planning, how long will you be able to travel? But the bigger picture, of what do you want to do with your life, needs to be talked about more. And do things while you are able to do them!

    • It’s hard when you realised that certain things have passed you by. it’s why I feel the mentoring questions are so important. Figuring out our money is a great start, but the real point is to use it toward the things that matter most.

  5. Oh, Jillian. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. You are so write that it’s all about the checking the boxes on the things you want to do in life. Don’t wait to have time – make time instead. I have always said I don’t want to live with “what ifs”. What if I had done this. What if I had done that. You know more than most the importance of living each day to the fullest. I am glad you and the Mr had a chance to visit before her passing. Those are the moments that count forever. Love to you and your family during this time.

    • Thanks so much! I was so thankful we could drop everything and go. And I agree about the “what if’s”. My fear of the “what if’s” has grown to be much bigger than my fear of failure or un-comfort or tendency of distraction.

  6. Sorry for your loss…
    It is encouraging how you can turn this sad event in a strong and positive message to all of us. The idea to make the never-column as short as possible and passing that to others is very altruistic and respectable.

    I look forward to the course. I could use it after my first test this summer. I learned a lot, still a lot to discover.

    • I’m so glad you were able to get your mini-retirement this summer! I’ve been offline so much this summer, I am missing out on all my favorite blogs, but I need to go check out what you had to say about your adventures. =) Those are times that you will never regret. It’s stuff like that if our time comes too quickly, we can say, “well at least I did THAT!”

  7. So sorry for your loss! Good thoughts to you and your family as you grieve the passing of Mr. Montana’s mom. I’m so glad that you were able to spend some time with her and that you didn’t have the added worry about hurrying back to the 9-5.

    Thank you for the courage that you’ve had to transform the painful experience of death into this inspiring message of hope and possibility.

    Something I learned recently from the death of a former colleague is that I want to take time to thank people now for the impact that they’ve had on my life … before it’s too late.

    So … thank you for all of the time you put into this blog. Your posts always brighten my day and challenge me to move beyond my fears.

    • Thanks! I’ve tried to be better over the last few years so say the things I want to say, and show appreciation without delay. Better now than trying to save it all for the end, if you even get that chance. Plus encouraging words can compound just like anything else. You never know what kind of return they might produce after 10 or years. =)

  8. I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope it was comforting to be there with family to say your goodbyes, and not feel rushed about returning to the j-o-b.

    It’s odd that as you get older, you find all the cliched things you heard as a child, and made fun of — are mostly true. “If I knew then what I know now” etc.

    66 is young. What a shame. I hope your father-in-law is coping OK.

    • 66 is awfully young. Generally the age when people plan to start their great retirement adventures and do all the things they had to miss out on while working a 9-5. But it was great to have that time with family.

  9. I’m very sorry for the recent loss of your mother-in-law, Ms. Montana. Good to know you all were able to make it and spend some time before her passing (without worrying about a job to get back to).

    Doing the things on that “someday” list is one of my priorities right now. And health can play such a role in getting them done! It’s one of the reasons I don’t want to wait any longer on so many of the things I want to do. Alan and I have always “talked” about many things, like hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail, renovating a house (in the works!), traveling more, etc. These things are now moving to the top of our list – I feel this urgency to get moving! (Looking forward to your course in this respect!)

    • I think that urgency is a great thing! Because urgency now is when you can still do something about it. Urgency ignored becomes bitter regret at the end of life. =/ I’m so glad you guys have reshuffled things around and are making space to get the impoortant things done!

  10. I’m so sorry for your loss; you, Mr. Montana, and your kids have my prayers.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom on this. I always advise my mentees to think about what they want to leave behind and build that legacy today, but the time passes quickly and there are so many other obligations and distractions that keep us from our bigger goals. This is a great reminder to stick to what’s most important to us and be that much more diligent in how we apply our time.

    God bless.

    • It’s so true about the distractions and obligations. It’s not necessarily the bad stuff that occupies all of our time and attention, but often the immediate. It takes me constant effort to balance the short term needs with long term goals!

  11. Dear MMA,

    I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your MIL and your son. Unfortunately, I know from first hand experience that there are no words that will make things right.

    Life is short and we only have one chance to make the most of it. Live.

    Besos Sarah.

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