I recently had a chat with a friend about her ailing, elderly grandparents and it got me thinking about life and death. I stayed up most of the night, thoughts and emotions whirling around in my head while my family slept, peacefully unaware – if for a while – that our time here with each other has an expiration date.
It’s been such a visceral part of my life for so long, that I’m able to blur it out of my consciousness quite often. I recall an intake form at a doctor’s appointment for me a few years ago:
Nurse: Age of your maternal grandparents?
Me: They’ve both died.
Nurse (not phased): OK. Paternal?
Me: Same. Well, I don’t really know about my father’s father, but…
Nurse (saving me from an awkward silence): No problem. How about your mother’s age?
Me: She died at 49.
Nurse (sympathetic): Oh! I’m so sorry! (Brightly) Father’s age?
Me: Died at 44.
Nurse (horrified): SERIOUSLY?! Um… Siblings? (Makes cringy face, clearly afraid of what I’ll say next.)
Me: OH! I have a sister! And she’s TOTALLY ALIVE!!!
Trust me, I have been through the freaking grief wringer in my 38 years and I have focused so much of the last eight of them on moving forward and being grateful for the life I have left, that I have blocked out the fact that this life? The beautiful, amazing, frustrating, crazy and incredible life I have? Is also going to end. The gut wrenching grief will find me again when other people I love so much I could suffocate from it, die. I mean, it’s going to happen. And I’ll die, too.
All of this is so fleeting. So temporary. All we get is this one precious life. Full of heartbreak, but also full of joy and bursting at the seams with promise. So, I’m going to try not to be afraid.
I’m going to take some chances and I’m going to go with the flow. I’m going to drive to work with my daughter and sing Christmas carols in September while we revel in the changing leaves. I’m going to really see them. (I mean, for the five minutes before we’re waist-deep in snow. NEW ENGLAND!)
I’m going to twirl Audrey’s blonde curls in my fingers and commit to memory how soft and light they are while she is two years old. How Olivia has the slightest smattering of freckles across her four-year-old nose. The way she says “weird” like she’s Vinny Barbarino.
Here is where I insert an amazing recent family photo, but guess what? Shit’s always getting in the way and the most recent professional photo I have of us is this one:
Adding new family pictures to the list of things I’m going to make a priority. Because it’s worth it to preserve these memories.
I’m going to take a good hard look at this post-baby body and make a decision to either work off the extra weight that has been making me feel self-conscious or I’m going to love myself for who I am right this minute. I’m never going to be the “perfect” size for everyone, so I have to decide what’s perfect for me and screw everyone else because haters gon’ hate.
I’m going to drink coffee because I LOVE coffee, damn it. I’m going to grow out my bangs because that shit was a MISTAKE – but I’m glad I tried it because, whatever, it’s only hair. Gray hair, mostly, but I’ve got it. And I’m grateful.
I’m just trying to let go a bit more and remind myself that while yes, life will get hard and horrible and so dark that there will be times (again) when I won’t want to wake up and face it, right now? Life is pretty spectacular. So I’m going to live while the livin’s easy. I hope you do, too.