Smiles, Laughter, and Tears
Being human is the hardest part of being human. Over the past few weeks, I have been forced to face illness, sickness, and death. I recognize we all deal with death, but our society puts it in a box and locks it up. Death is all around us, but we still find some magical way to ignore and avoid it. My first real acknowledgment of death was when my grandfather died. I couldn’t process the loss and it became for me a mental puzzle. I was never able to figure it out. As I get older and realize the “days are long, but years are short,” I find myself back at the table when it comes to death. I have hung on to the memories, the happiness, and the good times. I still don’t understand why the feelings associated with losing people are real-time feelings. I mean, I feel these feelings now as if I just lost the person and the loss feels timeless. I have read a lot about death and perspective from multiple cultures. There is a lot to read from people celebrating death to people experiencing death or from those who call themselves the “Twighlight brigade” working with people as they die. One thing that occurs to me as I think about this is the difference between death I have been present for vs. death I missed. The memories of the people I have going through the process of dying are tainted by our feeble attempts to keep them alive. Laying in a hospital bed being hooked up to equipment is horrible for both the person attached and the people who love them.
I recognize I am not writing anything new. Maybe this is the point here? Life and death are real and we ignore this reality. My good friend Giuseppe says, “We don’t focus on reality Howie, we get distracted by non-sense and a show.” When we realize what we have to lose, it is often too late. I never want to have regrets on my death or through the death of others. We overthink this life and it gets in the way of our own happiness. We wait for “things and stuff” too long. You know the stories about people waiting to have enough money to retire and they die as soon as they do. Or the people that scrimp and save for something down the road and they become too old to really enjoy it. I was driving yesterday past a Corvette car group on the highway. They were all in line with their beautiful cars. As I looked in the windows, there wasn’t a person under 60 in any of the cars. We can say “hey, they did it” or what I thought was “Why isn’t anyone younger driving and enjoying this now?” What’s the story?
A person is born, they live, love, and learn. They live through a series of short stories. They suffer loss, they feel love or they don’t. They live for an undetermined period of time always having millions of things that can kill them. There are so many things that can kill a person, it is overwhelming to process. They ignore these things until they are faced with either a long term death or immediate finality. At some point in between depending on what culture and what society they are a part of, they are introduced to the concept of G-d and the afterlife. It is hard to think of something as final. We all know there is a beginning and an end, but most of us don’t want to deal with it and we don’t. Still nothing new here, everyone knows this, but only when it is real at the moment does it really matter. We think, “I can’t believe this is happening,” as it is happening. We can’t believe something that we know to be true and are destined to deal with is happening.
My son and I were sitting at the table yesterday talking about the death of a newborn baby. I asked, “What do you think the purpose of the baby’s life and death was?” His reply, “A lesson for the parents.” His comment was crisp, clean, and clear as he didn’t blink or hesitate in his response. Death is more about the people left in its wake. What about smiles and laughter?
We had a nice house in Virginia Beach, and we planned on staying in it. My wife grew up in the house and we bought it from her father. Dad had done work on the house, but did leave us some projects to do. One project was an old bathroom that really needed to be redone for practical reasons. In the bathroom was a standup shower stall, it had an old fiberglass floor that would not come clean. No matter what we did, we couldn’t get it clean and every day I took a shower and looked at the floor and thought about it. It bothered me every day. My wife redid the bathroom with my father-in-law as a family project and when it came time for the floor they both recognized how difficult it would be to demo this out. They left the floor in place. We now had a beautiful bathroom with custom work and a dirty fiberglass tub at the base. Recently, my wife and I were talking about this because when we sold the house, we had to get the basin repaired to sell the house. It cost about $200.00 to get it repaired.
Life isn’t about summarizing ourselves through our last moments. It is about living and doing what we need to do for ourselves in our current moment. I can’t change the time wasted, but I can address what I can do right now. Hard to realize this in reality because many of us live in a fog. I am including myself in the fog. It takes a life-threatening or ending event to shake me out of it.
In the current moment, we need to find “purpose” for ourselves. I have written many times before about our temporary life. The world will be consumed by the sun and all humanity will no longer exist on this planet. It is destined to happen. Every artifact unless removed and placed in a universal museum will be gone. It will all be gone. Even if aliens came down and took relics of our existence at some point, they would be gone. This is the reality of nature and our universe. It isn’t bad or good, happy or sad, it isn’t debatable, it just is what it is. This means that we must focus on what we can do in the moment to enjoy ourselves and be purposeful with the understanding of what purposeful means. The purpose has an expiration date just like we do. There is room for hard work, determination, practice, and patience. It’s all there, but we must be mindful and recognize our death date is not TBD, it exists we just don’t know it.
As I looked at the “Thrulines” of Ancestry, I found potential ancestors dating back to the 1700’s which are more than six generations back. I don’t know what they laughed or cried about, I don’t know if they were good or bad people. I know nothing about them. There will be a time that people will look back and know nothing about us. Love can’t be expressed 100 percent explicitly. As much as I have told my children about my grandfather, they can’t experience him. That said, they can experience me which carries a part of him in my heart and through my expression. It is a piece of a part.
What we must do is take advantage of our moments and find to the best of our ability some way to be mindful of these moments. We need to appreciate them in the same way as taking a deep breath of fresh air.
In this, we can find our purpose in the moment and do something with it. This isn’t an investment in the future. The future is a result of the investment while “In the moment.” The moment is now. What is your purpose?