It appears that it’s not meant to be a celebration this year – another family member passes on just two days after the last. Both of these were sudden and the sense of shock on the faces of those closest to them leave me lost for words or the ability to do anything to help. Both died only a couple of days after having falls and didn’t suffer long protracted illnesses which is some kind of solace at this time but the shock and uncertainty of both deaths set your mind racing.
Including my cousin’s father in law, three deaths in just over a week seems like more than just bad luck, but the more we look for patterns the easier it is to convince yourself that there is one – when all the evidence shows the exact opposite is true. One thing that has come out of these recent bereavements is the awareness of mortality it seems to bring to those who were of an age with them. An old drinking friend of my dad’s passed away a couple of weeks ago and you could see in the way he reflected on it that he was weighing up his own time. Having recently reached retiring age he has used the phrase “you don’t see old joiners” a few times, but I think that has more to do with him considering leaving the career he has held down for more than half a century. Either way you can see how the shock has made an impression on him.
It’s strange when both myself and Jill have a grandparent each, both 91 and both are failing that these other people have gone first. Is it a case of “Carpe Diem”? Do we bubble wrap everyone around us to protect them from the only thing guaranteed in life other than taxes? Or do we just get on with it? To follow up on yesterday’s jigsaw metaphor about people we have both lost and gained at Christmas you realise that the ones who have passed on are still part of that picture – yes it takes time to help us to reach that point, but it’s worth it to stand back and see the amazing collage of faces and memories we all have. Everyone who leaves us behind is beyond the suffering and pain they may have been in and we start to remember the person and not what took them from us.
Whether I live to see one hundred or drop down tomorrow is not something that should preoccupy my thoughts – neither should I look for a visible countdown clock on those around me. I faced my own mortality during the summer of 2005 when I didn’t know whether Cancer would take me or not – and from that you gain perspective that’s not religious or spiritual but just factual: we all get one shot at this, so enjoy it.
While we will always mourn those who we lose, we should never forget the impact on our lives and that must be our abiding memory of them.