“Beyond a certain age, a journey across the city becomes uncomfortably reflective. The addresses of the dead pile up….One day, I, too, will prompt a moment’s reflection in the passenger of a passing cab.”
Ian McEwan, in Atonement
Suddenly urgent business fills my day, although nothing has subjectively changed in the material facts and appearance of my life. My dear friend H looms large in my thoughts, and it’s no accident. Imminent loss weighs heavily on my mind and heart, and while it won’t affect me and mine directly, I’m reminded—again--how easily that could change. We live our lives, dream our dreams, and make our plans, seemingly oblivious of the knowledge that it takes so little to tear it all asunder.
I’ve been busy with errands and paperwork, casting a wary eye around, making lists, checking things off, creating new lists, spending time with my boys, eying my little one jealously, perhaps fearing the worst—but carefully leaving the naming of those fears to one side. It’s possible to know too much—fear paralyzes.
A snatch of memory haunts me: my parents’ living room full of adults, seated in a circle pray the rosary. I am not quite 7. I run from one to another, asking what they are doing (I didn’t know what it was at the time outside of a seemingly endless stream of Hail Marys), not getting an answer, and finally an older adult thrust a toy set of beads into my hands and pleaded for me to be quiet or pray.
Rosary or not, dad died about 3 months later. All prayers are answered, but you don’t always get the answer you want. Pray for peace for the dying and the living, because both need it in equal measure.
As much as possible, I want everything settled, in the event I don’t live into my 90s as the women in my family are wont to do. I realize I won’t have everything prepared, but I will do my best to have it all laid out.
I think of how much we squander in a day—how much time and energy in trivia and inanity, how much energy is channeled into holding grudges, getting even, worrying about things that, ultimately, don’t matter. Do we do these things in an effort to forfeit mortality?
If so, I can’t think of a bigger waste of everything that matters.
I am reminded—constantly—that every day, every moment, is a gift.
What will you do with your gift today?