Gratitude, Death, and Joy (in that order)
March 24, 2010
Nothing made me quite as grateful about having Shelley in my life as the very real prospect of losing her. Starting in the fall of ’05 and extending over a few years, we found ourselves at various times in the local E.R., with her experiencing chest pains, sweats, all kinds of alarming symptoms. Her father had already died of strokes. Her brother, at 53, younger than her by several years, had already had double bypass surgery. We soon discovered that she — an otherwise healthy and vital woman, had serious blockages in her coronary arteries, and needed angeoplasty and several stents.
Besides all the impact these incidents obviously had on her, they terrorfied me. Moreover, they made taking her for granted impossible (and ridiculous) from then on.
It gave me a crash course in Everything Changes 101. We all eventually lose everything. Some of us more suddenly than others. But none of us takes anything with us when we go. No possessions. No senses or brain to enjoy anything with.
In this amazing millennial age, we cannot only accumulate more stuff with more comfort or luxury than at any time in human history, but we can also have more knowledge, and a richer diversity of experience, and over more healthy years than most members of our species have ever known.
Yet in the end we end up just as dead and turned to dust, just as gone, and just as forever as anyone ever has.
You can despair in that if you like. But I find it the best cause for celebration I know. In the face of death, what better response is there?
Imagine: If you are able to live another 20 or 30 or 40 years, you will most likely lose some of the dearest people in your life. You might have heard the darkly humorous line an elderly woman once gave when she was asked…
“What’s the best part of getting older?”
“No more peer pressure,” she said.
And you may recall that line from an old Simon and Garfunkel song —“Preserve your memories/ they’re all that’s left you”. You’re going to be left with memories and photographs. And loneliness.
Then awake from this bad daydream and realize these dear friends and loved ones of yours are alive now. You then might realize more than you did a few moments ago how blessed you are today.
So tell me: Did you find this post morose? I don’t, but that’s just me.