I feel like a cross between Garrison Keillor and Mr. Rogers: It’s been a busy week or two in the neighbourhood. That’s “neighbourhood” defined as the extended circles of family, friends, and acquaintances.
- A former neighbour-of-my-parents dies after years of Alzheimer’s disease. Age? 85.
- A chance-met retired military man and author dies after what I hope wasn’t long with cancer. Age? 88.
Sad, you know, but there it is. To be expected, surely. After all, they were both old, “old” being defined as anyone at least 15 years older than I am.
But there are other goings-on in the neighbourhood.
- A former colleague’s wife dies after a three-year bout with cancer. Age? 67.
- A family member starts radiation treatment. Age? 70.
- A younger friend’s mother waits in line for a biopsy on a serious tumor. Age? 73.
- An old friend recovers, damnably slowly, from seven hours of surgery for a condition that came out of nowhere a few months ago. Age? 74.
- A younger friend’s father dies after several years on dialysis. Age? 78.
We’re in that zone. Forget the old: People close to our age are getting sick; some are dying. And so we make the hospital visits, contribute to the designated charities, and attend the funerals.
In 2011, just a few months after my father died, my then 88-year-old mother was at another funeral for someone in her neighbourhood. It was the second or third such funeral in a matter of a few weeks for her group of friends and former colleagues. An old friend leaned over to say something appropriate in an appropriately hushed tone.
They’re mowing our row.
They both laughed. They may both have cried, then or later.
As do I. Faced with life and death, what else is there to do? Just this, as a son said today at his father’s funeral:
Cherish each other.
Carpe diem doesn’t mean SEIZE the day, but CHERISH or PLUCK the day. It may be your last, whatever your age.
Barbara -Well, there you do. Cherish the day, too.
Indeed. Then, we hear from 20+ and 30-somethings who are doling out advice about how to live a long life. When I read these prescriptions, I always feel guilty and nervous and inferior. Yet, at 78-next-month I have already beaten many of the odds and I have never done a single thing they are recommending. I frown at myself and apologize mentally, “Sorry to disappoint you and skew your statistics but I’m still here.” Probably not for long, eh? But I’m having a scrumptiously spring-green day despite the black flies, a rough time for the schizophrenic, some unpleasantness from the stubborn relative, and some sadness that dear friends are moving to be closer to their grandchildren. I have a sweet little shawl from a friend that must have as many stitches in it as the half-million words I have written to people in need these last few months– a statistic that warms the heart as well as the shoulders. Those are the kinds of numbers that make me smile.
Laurna – Well, as my doctor says when she sees my test results, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” And whether connectedness gives us more years or not, it certainly gives us more life in the years we get.
I love your closing lines:
Cherish each other
Today, Michael Enright closed his weekly CBC Radio One show “The Sunday Edition” with these words:
“It’s not the cough that’ll carry you off, It’s the coffin they’ll carry you off in”
Tom: Yes, it was a moving eulogy, and a strong reminder about what matters.