We chanced upon a memorial service when we biked to the wetlands today. Over the past fifteen years or so, four thousand, memorial trees have been planted there. Once a year, many gather for a memorial service. What a great way to remember loved ones.
I don’t think it’s macabre or dark to discuss death and dying, but it seems to be that way for many. Funny that. It’s one of the only two things that we all have to do: and we’ve all already been born. “Ain’t nobody gonna get out of here alive.”
When we are young, old age and death seem so far away — almost forever. The life that stretches before seems so long that we almost feel immortal. One day that changes. I can remember when it changed for me. Picture me: almost forty, strolling through a little village with wife and children. Wife decides to take the kids into the cemetery because they (cemetaries not kids) are always interesting. At that moment, I wanted no part of it, for I was suddenly smacked with the realization that it really wouldn’t really be long until I, too, rested in a place like that. What a disturbing revelation! I was mortal; my life was half over already. I was not ecstatic.
Since then, all of our parents have passed on, some far too young. A young niece of five died suddenly from a lurking but undetected virus. My wife had a cancer scare last year. My sister-in-law had one this year. They both escaped — this time! — but the grim reaper sharpens his scythe for all of us, and he may not be as far away as we all wish.
When we are of an age to face the death of a parent, and when there are departures and close encounters in our families, we can’t help but ponder life … and death. My pondering has led me to at least one conclusion. You must understand that this is my belief only. It may not be held by anyone else on this planet.
Here it is.
The duration of our lives is not nearly as important as the quality of our lives. In fact, contrary to most people, I believe that duration is not terribly important at all.
I believe that lives, whether short or long in years, more or less seem the same length to everyone. Now nearing sixty, I don’t have any real sense now of having lived longer than I had twenty, thirty, or perhaps even forty years ago. How ever old I live to be, it will all seem like a blur. In a sense it will seem like a mere moment, and in another sense it will seem like forever, for I have been present for all of my life, and my life is my forever.
You know what? All that we have is the here and now. You and I have this moment. Then, we may have another moment. But our life consists of these present moments. We have to grasp life in the present because, if I’m right, and of course I am, it’s all we have. We must make the most of each moment. That’s hard, impossible really. There will be bad moments. So, we must make the most of the most possible moments that we possibly can.
We need to relish the little things that we do today. The true joys of life are not about the big trips that we take, as nice as they are. If you think that real living is about the big trip, then what are you doing for fifty weeks a year? Not living? Spending more than ninety-five percent of your time not living?
Can I suggest that the best things of life are really: hugs, greetings, smiles, nice days, nasty days outside when you’re somewhere inside, kids, pets, parents, children, work-talk, being friendly, enjoying a coffee. This is what we do! We do these things all of the time! This is life. This is living. Proactively embrace and enjoy this daily minutia. If you absolutely can’t, then you must change something: location, job, how you use your leisure time, or maybe your attitude.
I suppose this needs to be a book. As a blog, it’s getting long. You need to move on. So, let me wrap up.
What a great idea to plant a tree in memory of a loved one. Me? When it’s my time, I want to be under that tree. Even if it’s my ashes in the planting hole, that’s where I want to be. I will be part of the ground and part of the tree.
We are all immortal you know. Did you know that? Our stuff will change form, but it will go on in some form until the end of it all. I think it would be nice to spend my first century or two of immortality as part of a tree. I hope that I’m in a spot where I eventually fall and from my crumbling hulk a new tree takes root.
Less you have misunderstood. I don’t eagerly seek or embrace death. I acknowledge it, and that compels me to embrace the moment. Being human, I don’t embrace them all, but I sure try to find satisfaction in what it is that I do with as many moments as possible. Moments are life. Life is made up of moments. Your life is now. Seize it.