The Five Minute Challenge

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by Rebecca Richardson

Loosing someone you love is like standing in the tracks as a freight train barrels into your soul, leaving your heart in fragments.  It's sadness so overwhelming you feel your tears may form a river that will carry you away on waves of grief. It's righteous anger at everyone; God, yourself, the person who left you behind. It's questioning everything and anything. The Would, Coulda, Shoulda thoughts invading your brain. It's hysterical laughter at random memories, giant grins a discovering lost photos. It's realizing how very fragile your own mortality is. How we are in this world for the briefest of moments and then we are gone.  

So I take each moment, each hour, each day and remind myself that each new day is a gift. It's not guaranteed. That if I left this Earth right now at this very moment, that I mattered, that I was loved, that I gave love in return. When I start to feel overwhelmed and full of sadness I stop, take a deep breath, and remember some basic truths. 

Life is  not about what you earn, what you obtain or the title on your business card. It's about the simple things, a child's smile, the warmth of an embrace, the connection that we feel with another human being. No one's grave ever read "he earned a lot of money" "she drove a great car", they do read, however, "she was loved", "he was a father and husband"...

Death is the ultimate alarm clock. It wakes us up with a vengeance; often shaking us to the very core of who we are. The pain never goes away when you loose someone, but it does get easier. You learn to live with the grief, like an unwanted roommate who won't take the hint. You learn to appreciate the small things and to ignore the petty. 

To cherish your memories and to hold those you have a little bit tighter.  Our lives come and go so quickly. We worry about the things that don't matter and don't  focus enough on the things that do. I encourage everyone to reach out to each other, call an old friend, spend time with a grandparent or a cousin you've lost touch with.  No day is guaranteed so treasure each one you have and make it count.

On September 21, 2009, I received a phone call that would alter the course of my life. My younger and only brother Ruben, died in his sleep at the age of 31 from an accidental overdose. It took a very long time to come to terms with his death. Not only because it was so sudden and unexpected but because I had not seen him face to face in 7 years. 

Our lives had taken many twists and turns growing up and like many people, I just went through my day to day, assuming that there was plenty of time to catch up and get together again. The idea of death seemed so foreign and far off. We were young and alive and tomorrow was a worry for another day. 

After his death I struggled for a long time. In particular with my guilt. It was crushing. The thoughts raced through my mind day and night. I was his big sister. I was the one who had moved over a thousand miles away. I felt like I had let him down, let my family down. I questioned everything and my anger, my sadness were weights that weighed me down for a very long time. Five years later, I still have my moments, although thankfully not as much. Slowly but surely I found ways to find my purpose, to patch up my heart. One of those ways, was through the 5-Minute Challenge. 

Every year, in the last week of October I ask people to join me in this challenge. Ruben died a few weeks before his 32nd birthday. It was in his memory that I created this. I am asking each of you from October 24th through October 31st to reach out to someone you've lost contact with. 

Be it a friend, a sibling, a parent...it doesn't matter who, it only matters that you take those 5-minutes out of your week to reach out and let them know they are on your mind and in your heart. So often, we take our lives for granted. We assume that we can put off what we should do today because there is no rush, there is plenty of time. Sadly, I learned the hard way that it is not always the case. No one should ever have to live a life that has regret. No one should ever have to feel the kind of pain that comes with “if only” or “what if”. 

You have the chance to change. You have the chance to make your life and someone else's better just by taking 5 minutes and starting the process. You can:

  • Write a letter
  • Skype
  • Make a phone call
  • Send a Text
  • Compose and E-mail
  • Send a Postcard
  • Send a friend request on Social Media

I've heard from hundreds of people over the last 5 years who've taken this challenge and have been thrilled with the outcome. I can't promise you that if your estranged from someone, reaching out will fix things. I can promise you, however, that if you don't, you'll never know and take it from someone who knows better, it's not something you want to spend your days wondering about. 

Learn more about the challenge today at https://www.facebook.com/events/719903321412320/

“We've got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can't just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it's going to get on by itself. You've got to keep watering it. You've got to really look after it and nurture it.” – John Lennon