“A young person’s death is like a shipwreck at sea. An old person’s death is a ship coming into port.”
I was at a funeral today. That fact alone is enough to make me feel introspective, but when the person being remembered is someone I’ve known my whole life, that introspection is pushed into high gear.
I’ve written before about growing old, and I would have to say that at my stage of life, I’m already not a big fan. Although I don’t feel half my actual age, here’s the thing.
Remember the days when little boys used to play with armies of toy soldiers, lining them up in rank and formation on the hearth rug while mother churned butter or kneaded bread? Neither do I, but you get the picture.
It seems to me that generations are lined up something like those little soldiers. As a child, you’re at the back of the ranks, surrounded by so many others you can’t even see the front, let alone imagine you’ll be forced to take your place there someday. Upon reaching young adulthood you may still be oblivious, but one day, probably at a time of loss, you will understand how the game works. That’s where I am right now.
One by one, mighty soldiers in the front lines of my life have fallen, and a few days ago another good woman fell. Many of those now gone weren’t even related to me, but in many ways, and for many reasons, they formed part of the front generational line — the very line I felt was protecting me.
Yes, there are some gaping holes back where I’m standing, because life isn’t always fair, but the front lines have suffered the most. For me, there have been so many in the generation ahead, it’s taken quite awhile for the holes to start showing. Now that I can see through the last line standing ahead of me, I don’t like it one bit.
I have no fear of leaving this life, but I have a great fear of being called to leave it too soon. I’m very greedy about that and I lust after the gift of living, healthy and whole, to see my grandchildren grown up, and maybe even know great-grandchildren.
Days like today help me realize anew how important it is to develop and nurture relationships. I understand that I must buckle down and work hard at things I want to accomplish. Things like my writing. I like to think that parts of me will live on in the words I’ve written and the relationships I’ve maintained, no matter when my time comes to pass through the thin curtain separating this life from the one beyond.
Given good health and a sound mind though, I’d welcome the chance to put into port with a smile on my face at the end of a full and satisfying voyage.