Life is Short
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It’s the day after Christmas and it’s not my favorite day of the year. Exactly 47 years ago on this date, my father dropped dead of a massive coronary in front of my family.
I was 17 at the time and, needless to say, that is not something I have ever forgotten.
Loss can define one’s life, if you let it. I like to think my loss has shaped, rather than defined, my life.
I loved my dad very much. He was brilliant, but he was also talented, passionate, funny, and loving. He also swore like a sailor. I imagine that’s where I got my mouth. Hmmm. I suppose, in retrospect, he would have preferred I had chosen a different way in which to follow in his footsteps.
His being a youthful 49 when he died did not make a huge impression on me at the time. I remember buying flowers for his grave. The flower vendor asked me what they were for and, when I told him for my Dad’s grave, he said “wow, that’s awfully young.”
I distinctly remember thinking, “it’s not that young.” Looking back, from the vantage point of being 63, I sort of marvel at my youthful perspective.
I like to think that his life was more of an influence on how I live my life than his death. But his death, and my having had to come to grips with it, was a pretty powerful force.
Other kids went blithely through their teenage years, unaware that anything so devastating could alter their young lives forever. Having to cope with my loss made me a bit jaded, a bit paranoid, and a lot more mature, in many ways, than my more happily naïve classmates.
I have always been a worrier, but experiencing how quickly my life could be damaged cemented that trait. My tendency to worry is not something I’m thrilled about, but it is what it is.
My mother getting brain cancer at the age of 59 and dying in her 60’s merely cemented my tendency toward paranoia. As you can imagine, raising 5 kids was pretty nervous-making. I still worry about them on a daily basis, as I do about my husband, every time he begins his long commute into the city.
On the plus side, learning how short life is was a huge bonus in how I’ve lived my life.
I take the time to feel grateful for all that I’ve been given. I actively thank the Gods that Be often, sometimes several times a day.
Since I turned 39, I have exercised nearly every day, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half. Even after hip and knee replacements, I have been faithful about doing my exercises, as much as I can hate it.
I try to make each day enjoyable, no matter what’s on the agenda. Let’s face it, doing laundry and cleaning the cat box are not exactly joyful activities. Finishing them, however, is a small cause for celebration.
One of the reasons I enjoy making nice dinners and setting the table with placemats, good silver and candles is because it gives us something enjoyable to look forward to, after a long day.
I try to live a mindful life. I try not to let the months fly by with little to remember them by. I take the time to stop and look at the huge Rogue’s Gallery on our wall above the stairs. I inspect those old photos and remember to treasure the memories they bring me. Some are sad but most are very happy memories of the people in my life that I love, the children I’ve raised.
I made it a point to remove people from my life that are poison to my happiness.
I take risks, trying to put my faith in the Universe that All Will Be Ok.
I adopted our two youngest kids. If having kids is a crapshoot, adopting them is even more of one. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. Well, somehow I managed to win the adoption lottery, twice.
We moved here to the boonies 10 years ago, knowing that Bill’s commute would be grueling. We loved the place at first sight and within 5 hours had put in an offer and put our own house on the market. We took a huge risk, moving into the middle of nowhere to a house that had so many problems I can’t count.
10 years later, in exactly one month, Bill will be done commuting and we will be rewarded with a home we love, in the calm quiet of the country. This house still has more problems than I can list, but maybe now he’ll have a bit more time to tackle them. (Ha! And he’s thinking he’ll have more time to be lazy! I haven’t told him yet.)
I try hard to not sweat the small stuff. I am always aware of the fact that our lives speed by, that Life is Short.
My dad often said, “Live every day like it’s your last day on earth, but plan as if you are going to live forever.”
Pretty good advice, if you ask me.
I miss you, Dad.