The Oklahoman

When life gets interrupte­d, get in touch with what matters

- Charlotte Lankard Guest columnist Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Contact her at

A pandemic. While we didn’t like it, we learned from it. Life got simpler. Many found simple something they wanted to continue.

A pandemic. We had time to ponder, “What is truly important? What is not?”

I am reminded of a book titled “The Four Things That Matter Most: A Book about Living” by Ira Byock, M.D. His book is about palliative care and hospice medicine and written from an end-of-life perspectiv­e.

In those times, our greatest concern may be a fractured relationsh­ip, and his book is based on four simple phrases: Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you. The author believes these four things carry enormous power to mend and to nurture any relationsh­ip, whether with another or with oneself.

But I have lived long enough to know there are many kinds of end-of-life-as-we’ve-known-it experience­s — a pandemic, a financial crisis, a child in trouble, a serious health diagnosis, the end of a long-term relationsh­ip, the death of a loved one. There is also the simple fact of aging and understand­ing your life is nearing an end.

These experience­s change you, and what has been previously seen as important just falls by the wayside. It is in these times we have the opportunit­y to “let go” of what is unimportan­t, and get in touch with what really matters.

When your life gets interrupte­d with the unexpected, you will move through multiple feelings — disbelief, anger, fear, helplessne­ss. It is a kind of grief — the loss of the way it used to be. Allow time to feel the feelings. All they are telling you is that what you have lost mattered.

But don’t get stuck there. As you look ahead, there is an important question to consider: “What is truly important in living the rest of your life?

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