Archive for March, 2009
When older people get together there is something unflappable about them; you can see they’ve tasted all the heavy, bitter, spicy food of life, extracted it’s poisons, and will now spend 10 or 15 years in a state of perfect equilibrium and enviable morality. Irene Nemirovsky, Fire in the Blood
I have a few friends who are well into their eighties; women who have lived their lives thoroughly and enjoyed the amassed daily moments to their fullest extent. I love these women for what they are. There is wisdom in their advice, a sense of humor in their actions. They’ve come to terms with the destruction life has in store. Physical health and beauty deteriorating, husbands and friends lost to death or alzheimers, children and dear ones far away, their bodies betraying them daily. But their kindness, their compassion, their love survived every treachery and evolved into a beauty transcending the physical.
I know they have fears. Whenever I see them upset at their lack of control over their bodies, they fear for their dignity. For their self-respect and the respect, or lack of, others have for them. I like to remind them that their self-esteem need not suffer because their bodies fail. They are more than that. More than fragile bones and decrepit muscles. They are the light in the eyes, the smile on the lips, the love they exude.
Some have come to terms with death encroaching, others have not. But, I don’t believe it is death they fear, or maybe not as much; what they fear is their disappearance; the disappearance of their voices, their laughter, their memory. The fear of becoming a dusty one-dimensional photo. The cessation of their story.
And then the fear of eternity. Who is immune to that? So vast and unfathomable. Like grains of sand or stars in the night sky, or the seconds in a grandfather clock ticking away. And all that had been left undone and unsaid. All the mundane and not so mundane choices made daily that may or may not have purified the soul. Or whether their faith will pay off and they will be in the presence of God and their loved departed ones, or rotting away, first their flesh and then their bones.
And yes, for some the fear of death as well. Of what happens at that moment when this earthly life ends and the other begins. That transition from the mortal to the immortal. The termination of one and the beginning of another. How will it be? What will they feel? Where will their soul go and how will it get there?
Yet, despite all these thoughts in their minds and in mine, I marvel at their depth, at the lives they’ve created, at their multi-dimensional facets, the little glimpses into the girls they were and the women they’ve become. So graceful, caring, resilient. And I look forward to my old age, not in despair but in hope; the hope that I’ll become like one of them, enduring and persevering.
I start trembling at the very thought of the unplanned and the unknown, but inevitable and unstoppable force with which parents leave traces in their children that, like traces of branding, can never be erased. Pascal Mercier
It seems like my little baby boy was just born, we had just been discharged from the hospital and were on our way home, the car packed with all types of necessities, our heads crammed with all kinds of practical advice we were already forgetting. Yet, in less than a week he’s turning nine. And in some ways, despite all our reading and all my prayers and all the advice we even now receive, we’re still just as clueless as we were then, and just as fearful of doing something that will scar them forever.
When I was young my grandmother used to say that children are our inheritance from the good Lord. As we receive them into our families, we inherit their dreams and their futures as well, neither of which we should take lightly. Now, fully an adult and a parent as well, I understand the magnitude of her words.
Responsibilities come and go, but this is one that stays with us. Years and years of preparing them for adulthood, making mistakes along the way, learning together (in my case, at least), yet knowing there’s nothing arbitrary about the values we try to instill in them. We hope to infuse their life with meaning and with joy. We try to be good examples, yet remain true to ourselves. And we get tired along the way, and wish to just give in and let things be.
There are inherent risks in all we do, in life itself. Sometimes the most we can offer is emotional safety. Because life nonchalantly goes on in it’s own way in a blatant disregard to our opinions and wishes, our duty to our children’s future is so vital and so much more rewarding than we can even anticipate.