The 50s are a precarious decade for me. Although my great-grandmother lived into her nineties, and I might too, my mother, my grandmother, my aunt and my uncle all died in their 50s, as did a dear, dear friend, just last winter, and a colleague in a freak accident, and my best buddy from Junior High with whom I lost touch and only found via her obituary, and a sister I only met once who was just a year older than me and who I’d always dreamed of knowing and who died 6 months (6 months!) before I’d even heard.
I suppose this decade is the beginning of the apprenticeship of letting go, if not our own life than that of loved ones.
Before her death at 94, my great-grandmother buried two husbands, a daughter, all of her siblings but one, and most of her friends, and plenty of her students.
“I’m ready to go,” she’d say. “Everyone’s gone without me.”
Maybe it’s the cloud cover or the coming of Valentines Day (my late father-in-law’s birthday) or the tender broken heart of someone close to me that brings me to these thoughts this morning.
And yet, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about death, and maybe it’s always been so, having grown up in a surgeon’s home, who was also the child of a surgeon, who was the son of a nurse and a physician, that, and having lost the love of my life at 14 in a tragic accident that took away much more than my Nana Lila.
Perhaps it’s a gift, this intimacy with death. Perhaps it’s what is needed in order to remember that “There is no promise of tomorrow on this earth,” a prayer which hung above my marriage bed, almost thirty years ago, and hangs there still.
Perhaps it’s a preoccupation, a fear, a burden that I’ve passed on…
My son said goodbye to me this morning mindlessly, and I called after him as headed to the car–“Who knows if we’ll see each other again,” I said, reminding him that my father fought with his mother Lila on the night that was her unexpected last.
My son paused then, and returned up the porch stairs to embrace me with a smile,”These are the things I’ll tell my therapist someday,” he said, “How I could never leave without thinking about death.”