No One Gets Out Alive

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Today is a beautiful day. It’s sunny. The birds are doing their “Spring Thing” and chirping and singing in an effort to show off to the females in their usual early morning mating rituals. My peach trees are starting to blossom and my garden has gone insane as the arugula seems to have overtaken the entire plot because I truly suck at weeding and nurturing plants. I’m sitting here thinking about how finite the time is we have on this earth.

My Great-Aunt Lucy passed away a few days ago. She was 91 years old. Today is her funeral. I’m waiting for a casserole to finish in the oven because, no matter how far away around the globe I’ve lived, I’m always going to be a Southern woman at heart and we bake and cook away our grief. “Your grandma passed? I’m so sorry. Take this pot of baked beans and apple cobbler. Bless your heart.” Southern people feed you in mourning. It’s just what we do. Which is probably a blessing in disguise with my family. We’re Irish. So there’s probably going to be a lot of boozing, of which I’ll abstain. At least the relatives will be toasting on full stomachs.

I attended Aunt Lucy’s 90th birthday party last year. It was so cool to talk to her and look through old photos of her and my grandmother and others in the family. She had learned photography during WWII and the photo above is of her wearing an officer’s hat and holding a cigar while sitting on a desk. She told me that she struck that pose on a whim while she and another girl were taking turns as photographer. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to her and hearing stories of her life’s memories. I’m grateful that I got to spend even that small amount of time with her before she died.

And this morning I reflect on my own mortality. I think about whether or not I remember to tell my kids how much they mean to me, how proud I am of them, and how they ARE enough and how they should never allow anyone to make them feel that they aren’t. I wonder if through all of the “busy” doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, attending track meets, softball games, cross country meets, science nights, parent volunteering commitments and coffees with various principals, that my children see that THEY are my life’s work and that all the “stuff” is just another way to support them. I think about how I tell each one they are “my favorite” and how they all teasingly boast about the dishes done, homework completed, A’s made, or who went to bed the earliest in order to snatch “Mom’s favorite” title away from the last one labeled. I think I’ve done okay. There’s always room for improvement, but so far, so good. I hope.

I have some extended family members who seem to fear death. They are petrified of it and spend so much time in doctors offices in an attempt to prolong their own lives that they never seem to enjoy the lives they have. There is always such a “doomsday” outlook, complete with the reading of arbitrary negative events as signs of the end of the world that there is precious little time to find the happy and enjoy those around us and allow them to enjoy us.

I admire Aunt Lucy. While I didn’t know her very well, I do respect her choice last week when she opted to spend her last few days enjoying her family in hospice, rather than subjecting herself and them to surgeries and treatments that might prolong her life at a cost of excruciating pain. I think Aunt Lucy realized that she had lived a full life and that spending those last few days with her loved ones was a far more precious gift that she could give them. Saying goodbye is important and so is saying I love you.

I love you, Aunt Lucy. Goodbye.

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