My parents have had their share of somber news this week. Earlier in the week, when I had just retreated to our home, I was greeted with a sadness which enveloped Mom. Her eyes had a look that conveyed pure exhaustion and grief. Her shoulders sagged a bit under the weight of all she had heard that day. “I have some news” she whispered “when you have unloaded your things and are ready, come back up and I will fill you in”. She walks back into the kitchen where she is preparing dinner. I follow her. “No, tell me now, Mom… what’s happened?” I come to her side. She looks down and shakes her head. “It’s Tom, he died this morning, in his sleep”. Her eyes move up to meet mine “just like that, he just died. He has been ill for so long… Marge called, she let us know that we would have news later in the week on arrangements”. Marge was Mom’s matron of honor all those years back, in the early 60s. Mom had worn Marge’s wedding dress because she didn’t have any money of her own for thewedding , having just come from Norway and on a meager income. Marge and Tom were dear friends from the early days of young adulthood; now- Tom was gone. “And in the same day, I learned that Aase is riddled with cancer, she’s in hospice care. Tove called to tell me. Aase has been sick too but it’s bad”. She falls into silence as she moves her wooden spoon around the pan to brown the butter and onions. I reach for her and place my arm around her shoulders and neck “I am so sorry Mom, that’s awful news, so hard.” We stand like that for a moment. I recall so many summers spent at Marge & Tom’s home on Bald Eagle Lake. The weeks and weeks of memories created over the years. The fun jumping off his dock and swimming to the float. His kids with whom I have not remained connected, we all going off in our own directions in adulthood. An era is fading. A time of family memory and reminiscence of softer times.
The very next day, Aase passed. There have been so many funerals these past two years. Many friends that didn’t make it to the next year. My parents are at an age when friends move on from this life. It’s strange to me because, like them, I see the youthfulness of each soul. Their true self – not their shell. I see it in myself now too- that even as I approach 50, I feel more like maybe.. 35. Time rushes on.
I recall comments from my parents when I was earlier, that they felt so much younger than their years, and this is a good thing. Not something everyone experiences. Some do feel their age, they have pain or they have burdens that weigh them down until they feel suppressed and compressed and this lends itself to feeling – old. I feel old sometimes. But most of the time, I feel young. And, I think about my parents as they have made it to the late 70s and mid 80s. They cherish each day with each other and in the world. And I cherish being with them. I moved in with them about five years ago to help Mom mostly in her emotional and physical experiences with Dad. Dad has had his share of medical reminders of the fragility of life. So, I am there to be a moral support, an emotional support and lately- a much more physical support. At times, it has felt that I placed my life on hold and one doesn’t know how long that will play out. There have been frustrations in my feeling of humiliation with others in this world who don’t understand. Hearing late night comedians on TV poke jabs at the “daughter living in the basement syndrome” or sharing with new acquaintances that I live in the lower level- feels embarrassing only for a moment as I attempt to explain my current circumstances. And, then I snap out of it. And I realize and acknowledge that in many ways, these are the best years of my life. I get to see them every day. I get to cook with Mom. I get to watch the news with them both and we enjoy Downtown Abbey together on Sundays, and seasonally Mom and I take in Dancing with the Stars. We spend time on a Sunday afternoon at a local Barnes and Noble sipping coffee and reading magazines.. a regular treat. And, I get to just focus on the memories I am making with these precious souls. And for them, they look forward to fun moments, creative outlets, connections with friends, moments of glory as they experience an amazing quartet in church or a hymn that fills them with peace. Beautiful meals to honor birthdays; two celebrations they have attended just in the past seven days.
Births are honored, deaths are acknowledged. Life cycle. We all die someday. It’s the reminders of our mortality that put a jolt in us from time to time. That constant knock on the door that says: “Hey, there is a time limit on your life, you have an expiration date, what are you going to do about it?” My answer for me: spend it with my parents, make memories, be creative, embolden others, support and encourage others, put my all in all that I do. Be more patient. Be more gentle. Live well. Yes. That’s it. Each day- try to live it well. Be mindful of living well.