Life is short, so live it. Love is rare, so grab it. Fear controls you, so face it. Memories are precious, so cherish them. We only get one life, so live it!
My neighbor passed away today, unexpectedly. She was 70, and had experienced some health problem recently, but it was still a shock to hear the news; I just talked to her walking her dog yesterday.
Her husband was out of town, and called a neighbor to check on her when she didn’t answer his calls. My other neighbor, 88 years old, made the terrible discovery and had to be the bearer of such halting news. He was clearly upset when I ran into him, just an hour or two after, and before the authorities had even arrived. 88, health problems of his own, his own mortality now thrust front and center, visibly distraught.
I always thought that when you reached his age, you had already made your peace with your own demise, without any effort, like hair turning gray. Clearly that is not the case. We must all struggle with the inevitable, and age has nothing to do with it. Some of us are forced to confront this much earlier than others, but even living a good long life doesn’t mean you ever want to let go; life is good, and there is so much beauty, even in the struggle.
But our bodies have limits, and the rules of biology and physics must be honored, and life and death is the realm of the gods, not us mere mortals.
What is up to us is how we react to these limits. Once again I am humbled and awed by the courage and acceptance that Debbie displayed when faced with these inevitabilities…
I stopped down tonight to visit my distraught neighbor, his first night joining me in the Gibralter Drive Widowers Club. The house will be quiet tonight, too quiet; it will feel like everything is wrong. And it is; you just don’t spend 90% of your years with someone and then suddenly adjust to their absence. It won’t feel real; he will be trapped somewhere between a bad dream and disbelief; we always think we have one more day. There is not much that needs said at this time, because we both know what it feels like; and sometimes you just need to sit with those feelings for a while. So we embrace and I honor his wishes to be alone tonight, and I certainly understand that, too, as memories of my first night alone flood back…
I stop in to see how my other neighbors are doing, too – you just don’t live next door to someone for 41 years and not feel the loss, too. He and his wife graciously welcome me into their home, clearly happy for the company tonight. We talk; about our neighbor and his wife, all the good times they shared, all the changes they have seen over the years. We share a beer and memories, the memories of what makes life special – pride in 59 years of being married to your sweetheart (and a big 60th anniversary coming up in December!), pride in raising their two boys, pride in their hard work and accomplishments throughout their working careers, pride in their neighborhood and their humble house full of love.
Stories. They are what make us human, what makes us unique. In the end, it is all that we have; but it is all that we need, if we have written ours in full, if we have truly lived. I am honored to have shared tonight in my neighbors’ stories, and the spark in their eyes recounting these cherished memories does not go unnoticed. Indeed, it burns as bright in the eyes of someone who is 88 as it did the days they were made.
I can’t help but imagine a time much earlier, bodies young and muscular and functioning perfectly, hearing and eyesight still good, the new lime green carpeting in a brand new house full of dreams lit up in the hopes and dreams of an evening sunset streaming through the front picture window, just like tonight’s…big smile.
Life is precious, even if you are 88.
And life is short.
So write your story, everyday. Visit your elderly neighbors and relatives while you can, while they are still here to share their hard-earned wisdom. Comfort those who need a shoulder, if you have a shoulder to give. Enjoy every sunset, especially the ones that light your dreams and memories. Smile until your face hurts, cry when tears need shed. If you are lucky enough to love someone, tell them. And when times are good, sing out loud, no matter how off key, and dance, dance naked and rejoice!
Live, laugh, love…