There was a time when I could not wait to write. I formulated. I thought. I wrote entire posts in my head and when I finally had a free moment, I would race to my laptop, sit down and the fresh, new words could hardly contain themselves before they lept out of my brain, through my fingers and onto the page. I do not know it if is because I am older, much more protective of what I say, more resolute (meaning less unhinged) or just simply because I am so out of practice. Nowadays, instead of flowing like an easy river, I have to twist, shove and push myself to even sit in front of my laptop. And words, well, they seem much more comfortable staying right where they are, stuck in my brain.
Just two days ago I attended the funeral of a dear friend’s father. The man who died was almost eighty. He was kind, well loved and had been sick for a long time. I am guessing that after years of suffering, he was tired and ready to go. And if you believe that there is something beyond this life, like I do, then you probably would have sensed what I did. It felt like my friend’s dad was somehow there with us and that he was letting us know that life moves on and that he is happy. I don’t always experience that kind of happy peace when someone dies. I did this time.
What I could not get out of my head, however, was all of us who have been left behind. Maybe it was what Dave said at some point during the weekend, “Everyone’s dad seems to be dying and it is getting a little weird.” Maybe it is that all my peers are getting older and thus our parents are getting older and closer to the end. Maybe it’s the fact that the days we have in front of us are shorter than the ones we have left behind. Maybe its all of these things.
I keep trying to find the right group of words to convey what I saw, what I felt and what I experienced this weekend. I am still struggling. What I do see is how completely delicate life is. Instead of watching our grandparents die, Dave and I are at this weird sandwich space (that I have mentioned before). We are raising our own children while instead of watching our grandparents die, now it’s our parents. Just a few years ago Dave’s dad was hiking with us at Sugarloaf Mountain, MD and now he is gone. It is also strange and difficult for me to see my own parents, who I always saw as so strong and so knowledgeable, lose who they once were. When my dear mom forgets that she told me the same thing already, instead of admitting that she is more forgetful because she is getting older, I rationalize and say, “Well, I do the same thing myself.” It scares me, makes me really sad, and I am just not sure how to express it. I am totally freaked out by this. I cannot stop thinking.
And then at the funeral, there was this moment, a moment where a beautiful young woman, who seemed about my age, was wheeling her stroke-stricken mother up to their seat. As they passed, I looked into the mom’s eyes and as I watched her try to communicate without words and really any motor control whatsoever, I could see that she was trapped. She totally knew what was going on and could do nothing about it. Then, I started to cry.
I am getting old. We are all getting old. I know people of all ages deal with all sorts of health issues. I have watched my own young son deal with his own life-threatening and life-changing health issues. However, if you somehow missed bad health in your youth, life has this very cruel way of evening things out. Life does not care who you are, how much money you make, how pretty, how rich, how mean or even how sweet you are. Life does not discriminate. If arthritis, heart disease, a stroke, cancer, Parkinson’s, ALS or all the other cruel diseases do not get you, then life seems to go for the mind and I just do not understand.
We are raised to strive, to thrive, to succeed and to better ourselves. hen, each and every one of us, gets old and we die. And even if there is nothing beyond this life, I want there to be. I need there to be and that is why I believe there is. I like to think my dear Grandma is just a thin layer beyond my reach. I would like to believe that when I sat in that room in my house on 1500 South and 1300 East all those years ago, that I really did feel Grandma Koener there. I want to believe that she was hanging because she really liked our guest room and that she wanted to reach across and let me know that she is still here. I need to believe there is more.
So when I saw that beautiful woman at the funeral trapped, I want to believe that she will have beyond, that her kids will see her well and that she will be free. When life strips away our beauty, our physical strength, our vitality and our mental facilities, I need to believe that this is not the end. And mostly because life can be absolutely cruel, I need to know that after we die, that we somehow keep on living.