To everything there is a season. Nature dictates it and man accepts it. A time to take our first breath of life and a time to breathe our last. A time to follow our dream and a time to surrender to fate. Life is a continuous cycle of bliss and misery; birth and death. We live. We love. We die. We are reminded of this whenever sadness and misfortune are visited on us. The seasons are inexorable. The conditions are unpredictable.
In nature, spring ushers in a time of renewal and rebirth. The earth bursts with viridity and exuberance. The air is fresh and perfumed, and the ground quickens with new life. Summertime is for fun and adventuring; sun worship and travel. Cares are put on hold. Time enough for worry when summer ends. Fall is for lazy meandering; food gathering and preserving. A time to breathe in the waning aroma of sun, surf, and sweat. And winter? Alas, winter is for hibernating, storing fat, and dark moods.
In life, our youth provides innocence, opportunity for testing boundaries, and exploring. When adulthood comes, responsibilities to self and family take precedence, and often blunt the fun out of life. Middle age creates crisis and midlife introspection. The spirit deludes us in thinking our bodies remain willing and able. Sadly, the illusion gives way to reality. We are forced to pace down and realign goals.
Eventually old age creeps in and we’re plagued with unwanted preoccupation. We’re suspended in morbid anticipation. If we’re lucky, our thoughts remain coherent. If not, our reasoning becomes flawed, clouded by brain fog. The reality of our impending mortality consumes our waking moments. Not a fun outlook.
I don’t admit to old age. Not yet. Like a friend said, “Sixty is the new thirty.” It is a delusion I embrace and one I appreciate. I still have miles and miles to go before I quit. I am not prone to melancholia either. But events of the past weeks have forced me to take a hard look at the future. My thoughts are unwelcome but necessary.
When I started writing this article, Mitch and I were on the road, on our way to New Jersey. It was a somber day made gloomy by dark skies that threatened rain. We joined family and friends in prayers for a cousin’s 40th day after her passing. The rain kept away and the sun appeared halfway through the gathering. A welcome sign.
This Filipino tradition helped soothe the ache of her loved ones. It was a celebration of a life well lived, full of appreciation. It was a celebration that was hopeful for her everlasting life in heaven. Food was abundant. Memories of her, mostly happy and funny, were shared. The smiles on the grieving family’s faces and their laughter were genuine. For that we are grateful. May this tradition never go out of fashion.
I enjoyed the banter and the food and the laughter. However, I secretly harbored regret and guilt. Not far from our cousin’s home lived a friend who passed away in December. Mitch was rearranging old letters and postcards some days ago and came across one from her. Google did the “informing.” What a sad postscript.
She was my first best friend in America. She and I were often mistaken for one another. And I was flattered. I was the matron of honor at her wedding. She was one of Anna’s baptismal ninangs (godmothers). I learned how to prepare my “to die for” spaghetti sauce from her. How did I let her become a former anything?
We live. We make friends. We love. The seasons come and go. The cycle of life comes full circle and begins again. We make promises. We brake them. We die. I feel like a heel. My friend, forgive me.
And while I feel sorry for myself, some members of our extended family grapple with the enormity of a grandmother’s serious illness. One that may very well take her life. It is compounded by the absence of a medical directive. A slip of paper known by its many aliases – advance healthcare directive, living will, personal directive, advance directive, advance decision.
It is a document which specifies what actions should be taken for a person’s health if that individual is no longer able to make decisions because of debilitating illness or mental incapacity. Without that legal paper, family members are left to make catastrophic decisions. Oftentimes they lead to dissention and fractures the fabric of an otherwise cohesive clan.
The message is clear. At the first opportunity, hasten to your lawyer and lodge such a directive. At the very least, download a copy from a reputable source and keep it in your permanent file.
Life happens. It derails our best plans and mocks our best intentions. I accept there is a season for everything. But man, oh man, what a difficult lesson. In the end, I fall back to my personal motto – I do my best and shrug off the rest. Keep safe, my friends.