The first real experience I had with death was losing my 17 year-old cat, Fritz, when I was 29. I had to make decisions about his health. And what to do with his body after he passed. Losing him was every bit as painful as losing a human loved one.
A little over a year after I lost Fritz, my ex husband’s mother died. I was a fairly new mom then. My life consisted of working full-time, juggling having a toddler and a marriage, and making sure to bring my son to see his ill grandmother as much as I could before she was gone.
My own grandmother was also terminal during that same period. I made sure to bring my son to visit her frequently too. And she died four months after my mother-in-law passed.
When I think back to that time, ponder those memories that were so permanently etched into my being, I wonder, was this some kind of right of passage into adulting? Damn. We all have those moments that bring us into reality. I wasn’t just playing house. This was real life.
Eventually, time passed and life continued on as usual. Sure, those loved ones weren’t forgotten, but I didn’t think about death everyday. In fact, quite the opposite happened. I cherished my role as a mother even more than I already did. I looked forward to watching my son grow and later, having another baby to love.
When a few more years passed and I was a mother of two, an old friend from high school passed away. Cancer. And she left two little girls and a husband behind. Friends who I hadn’t seen in many years gathered to attend her funeral. Some, from out of town. While having lunch together after the service, we reminisced. We laughed. We mourned how tragic it was that our friend’s life ended too soon. And my heart ached for those girls who had to grow up without their mother.
Faced with another truth, I saw first hand that death doesn’t discriminate. None of us are immune. Another cruel reality to remind me of my own mortality. No one talked about this. That we could die before our children were grown. What the hell is this? Adulting kind of sucks.
Life has a way of creeping by us little by little. And then it seems to suddenly throw us into a different dimension. We hurried up to become grown ups. To start our lives that might include careers and families. To find out that things aren’t so predictable even when we make plans. We wander around lost when things take an unexpected turn.
Things are going to happen that surprise us. Whether they are good or bad doesn’t matter. As we depart from our youth and enter adulthood, we become aware of these things slowly. We begin to feel how our lives evolve based on our own experiences. It happens to us all in one way or another. And it keeps happening with every stage of our lives.
So what do we do with that? Well, first of all, we need a sense of humor. And the ability to make the best use of all of our emotions. When we are sad, we need to allow ourselves to cry. When we are mad, it’s okay to brood over something too. Happy? By all means, we should bask in that. In all instances, we need to be resilient. So, even though I’ve learned that it’s best to use all of our emotions when needed, there is a time and place for everything. Have a bad day at work? Do not cry at work. Just don’t do it. You can cry when you are home having a glass of wine after the kids are in bed. Then dry it up and get some sleep. Tomorrow is coming and you get to start over.
No one tells us that stuff. Most of us learn how we think we are supposed to be by the example we have growing up. We need to know that all of this is okay as long as we don’t stay in one place. We keep moving forward and believe we can handle it. Because, well, we can!
Shit happens, right? That’s so true that the phrase can be found on a bumper sticker on a car in front of you when you are in traffic once in a while!
Here’s the thing. When we get old enough to realize that we aren’t invincible, we get scared more. And sometimes we worry.
There will always be lots of different kinds of people. The ones we love and the ones we don’t like. Those who agree with our views and those who don’t.
There will always be money. Some people are always going to have more than others. Some, have to decide whether to pay the power bill or buy groceries that month. Most people think there is never enough.
There will always be illness and injury. People get sick and get better. Some of them, won’t. And the sickness will kill them.
There will always be pain and suffering. Some will be physical and some will be emotional. And it is not up to us to decide whose pain is worse than others.
I can’t help but think of some old clichés that I heard often when I was young, but I didn’t really understand them until I was older. How about, life sucks, and then you die. Or what about, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. My guess is that these sayings came to be so popular because they help people cope with stuff sometimes.
If you find yourself in your forties like me, you’re at the place where you might be in the middle. Ha! That is where the term, Mid-Life, comes from! We are in the middle of our children growing up and our parents getting older. We are questioning whether or not we are where we should be in our own lives.
Have we done all the things right with our kids? Are we good enough to our parents? Are they proud? Are we happy with ourselves?
No one told me that I was going to feel like this when I grew up. But you know what? Our stories won’t be the same.
So if your baby is so sick that your anxiety develops into a phobia of throwing up. Or if your teenager is in the principal’s office at school for trouble that lands him in the juvenile detention center.
If you have to attend a memorial service for one of your dearest friends from high school just months before your thirty year class reunion. Or if you see on social media that the woman who gave you a manicure for a wedding once has died. And you’re shaken knowing that she was younger than you.
And you’re a bit envious because your friends are buying new trucks for their sons with money that you don’t have. And taking lavish vacations that you can’t afford.
Or if you’re worried about failing that math exam for the third time. The one you need to pass to get into grad school. Even though you haven’t studied math in thirty years.
You’re normal. And you’re going to be okay.
You know what else? There will always be wine. And therapists. And crazy pills. And best friends. And you know what else? That sense of humor. The one thing that we might need to most to survive our own story called Life.