This was a rule that I learned at an early age, but am still fully learning to appreciate today.

When I was 5, my second cousin Summer was killed in a tragic accident. It was a huge loss for my family, but, me being a kid still, I didn’t fully comprehend what was going on. I just knew that my favorite playmate in Alabama was gone, and everyone was really upset about it. Which, in turn, made me pretty upset, confused, angry (at what I didn’t know), and sad.

When I was 14, my uncle Mike died. He was 41. Another incredibly unexpected death in our family that rocked everyone to the core. I would imagine that any family member passing away early, tragically, or unexpectedly would have a similar effect. My Uncle Mike, however, for my family was definitely one of the “rocks”. For me, he was like a slightly removed father figure. I have one tattoo on my left shoulder, part of the design is three sage leaves. He represents one of those leaves, so that should tell you just a little bit…

I didn’t see my own father a great deal of the time growing up, usually 3 weeks to a month out of every year. Which, I guess, is better than kids whose dads are never there at all. He wasn’t totally absentee, and I still care about him a lot, he just made choices in his life that kept him busy most of the time. My stepdad did try to be a father figure to me, but there were also back and forth times growing up where that didn’t work so well either….for me or for him….that sounds vague, and I’ll leave it that way. Me and him get along now.

I think most guys that I’ve talked to who didn’t grow up with their own father present, literally or figuratively, feel that sort of absence. There’s sort of a constant seeking of that “dad” you never had. My Grandfather was, and still is, someone I look up to as a man. So, my uncle Mike, though I didn’t see him as often, was also a man I trusted as an example of what it means to be a good man. He was honest, ethical, loving, devoted to his family, spiritual, super intelligent, incredibly funny, sensitive, and an incredibly friendly guy. He had the uncanny ability to make every single person he came in contact with feel special and cared about, even if he was just talking to them in passing. What a gift, what a guy, what a loss…

In my early twenties, I lost a few friends. Namely, my buddies Phil Aulie and Nick Djandji. Both who were incredible artists, incredible human beings, and are incredibly missed by their families, friends, and communities. Their deaths happened within about 6 months of one another, and I ended up dealing with it, or trying to deal with it, by writing a song. It helps to talk about it a lot more, but creating art also helps to heal the pain of a loss.

So, I have experienced the terrifying reality that is death…who hasn’t, right? What it’s taught me is that I should make sure to keep my ego in check, and celebrate with the ones I love while I have time to. I’m not perfect at it, that’s why it’s a rule. It’s super easy to get caught up in the petty bullshit of life, and forget that any frustration or anger I might feel towards a loved one is really just poison. So, I do my best to not live that way at all anymore. There’s no room for anger or resentment in my heart, just love and tolerance.

Today, my girlfriend is celebrating her birthday. It’s the first birthday of hers that we have celebrated as a couple. I got up early and made her breakfast, and we are going on a date later tonight to celebrate. We also went to Houston last weekend as a “birthday trip” for her. And, I have still yet to give her the gifts I bought her. That’s all to say, I make birthdays a big deal. My mom made birthdays a big deal. I love my mom, and appreciate her instilling that importance in me. My grandparents also make people feel very important on their birthdays. It’s an important thing to do in my mind. It makes people feel really special when you make them feel really special. That sounds almost too simplistic, but it’s just not. People are special, and they should know it.

I got a lot of other family members and friends that I love an incredible amount, but I won’t list them all out here. Even if we disagree or get angry at each other sometimes, it doesn’t detract whatsoever from their importance to me and their presence in my life.

So, whoever you’ve been avoiding talking to because you just don’t want to get over it….whatever IT is, get over it. They won’t be here forever, and neither will you. And, even if you’re not angry at somebody, reach out and call a family member or friend you haven’t talked to in awhile. They might not say it, but it will make them feel special. And, that, in and of itself, is cause to celebrate.