You know you are firmly ensconced in middle-age when people you know or knew die.
The latest round of people I know passing away began in late December when a good friend of my mother’s passed away. This lady was a cool woman. Loving, independent, complicated. Her death was hard on my mother, who had the flu when her memorial service occurred in early January.
I didn’t go to her service. Part of me wanted to, but she was another cancer death and as a cancer survivor they are just so damn physically, emotionally, and mentally painful to attend.
The other thing is this would have been a see and be seen crowded Main Line memorial service and I had just had knee surgery. So even if I had wanted to be there, I couldn’t have been because I literally couldn’t bend my knee enough to stand on a stone floor of a church or sit in a pew.
I made my peace with my decision, and I am glad I knew her. She was a friend of my parents who early on treated me as an individual and not merely one of my parents’ children. When you are growing up and you really wanted your own identity to show through, you appreciated the people who were able to do this. You appreciate the people who see YOU, don’t you?
When she had died I hadn’t seen her in a few years. Life has just taken everyone in different directions. But occasionally we used to email or text. I’m glad I knew her.
However, 2020 brings death closer to my doorstep not because of relationship, but age. Two of my generation. Two whom I had known since high school. Contemporaries so to speak.
Neither of these people were my best friends or my closest friends, but because of how I knew them and when, it has hit home. Sadly.
I have memories of both of these people as teenagers and as adults. A man and a woman.
The man was always just a nice person. Not perfect, sometimes foolish, but always nice. At one point in time he was a brother-in-law to someone I know. Suffice it to say he was always much nicer than his relative. This man fought a battle against a cancer that was always going to win. He was brave and positive about it. Even on hospice. I respect that.
The last time I had spoken with this man was before he ever received his initial cancer diagnosis. He was back in the Philadelphia area and was moving yet again. He moved a lot the last years of his life and I think my greatest impression of his last decade of his life was that he was somewhat nomadic, looking for a place to put down roots again, literally moving from one end of the country to the other. That aspect of his life was tinged with sadness I think. I also think he was lonely.
I have memories of him from high school that are almost like Polaroid snap shots. He was part of a pack of boys I knew. He and his friends dated some of my friends back then, and were just part of even more extended friends group.
The woman who recently passed away who was familiar to me, was also part of that fabric of those growing up years. She was not someone I was close to ever. But I knew her. She was a close friend of two women whom I still know. I actually have memories of them with her. Laughing. Having a great time.
The laughter of youth sometimes seems so far away, doesn’t it? But if you listen closely enough you can still hear the echoes.
When I saw the woman a few years ago, she actually wasn’t particularly pleasant to me. At the time I thought it was strange because we had always been o.k. Now that she has passed, I realize how ill she probably had been even then. I never knew how sick she had been until she died. We weren’t close, so I wouldn’t have.
These passings are something to ponder because they are my generation. That makes you think. I remember as a little girl my grandparents and great aunts reading the obituaries almost daily. And it seemed like far too often there was somebody between the pages of the local newspapers that they knew.
Loss and passings certainly makes you value life, no matter how difficult it can be at times. After all, life has peaks and valleys, doesn’t it?
But I swear, middle age is like a weird right of passage. You hopefully know better who you are as a human being, but it’s also about life and loss. You also sometimes wonder is your life exactly what and where are you thought it would be at this point? I know I have thought that.
And I do know that I am lucky. I am blessed and I don’t use that word lightly or frivolously. I had breast cancer in 2011 and I am here in 2020 to write down all my random streams of consciousness that sometimes make my readers scratch their heads.
Life is not perfect. And someone who tells you life is always perfect is either not being honest with you or with themselves. Life is what you make out of it, but there are peaks and valleys and bumps in the road. I guess it’s how we adapt to those changes that makes us who we are, that defines us later in life.
So tell those who matter to you that you love them. You never know the path life will take us on. Live your best life.