Tuesday, May 29, 2007

and the life in between

Normally, society functions as a set of wheels and we are the cogs- but for a birth or a death we are allowed one at a time or in groups to step out of our places in line while those ahead and behind take over our burdens until we can take them up again.

The grandfather of a dear old friend died over the weekend. It was expected, just not this soon. He had a fall last month and as these things go the injuries took the rest of him down successively.

I have a photo on my dresser of him holding his great-granddaughter, the first child of my friend and his wife, the first child of this man's only grandson. He cradles her in his arms, smiling down face full of glee and pride- beaming, you know?

My dresser's surface is changing, with my values I suppose and with the map of my life. There is the photo of my grandfather holding four month old me, and on the back my mother has written how he loved this photo and carried it in his wallet (it is creased down the center, between him and me) and how she took it from his wallet after he died. I am lying upon his outstretched arm smiling at the face smiling back at me, likely in much the same way my friend's grandfather was smiling down. It is a 3x3 and I toted it precariously through move after move until I found a frame to fit. It's lived on my dresser ever since.

My grandparents took their turns slowly disappearing from my life. I lost them over a period of 17 years rather than all at once. I think of them each now and again, but doesn't an event in another's life also call up your own past experiences?

On my dresser is the photo of my 26 year old mother holding me to her chest. She kept it on her own dresser until she decided when I turned thirty the time had come to pass it down.

I have a picture of my cousin's new son staring wide eyed at his father, and a photo of my four year old self in 70's era piped shorts and bedroom slippers sprawled across my father on a lawn chair on my great grandmother's Florida yard. We must have been watching for peacocks.

Work is allowing me to slip away to attend the Thursday services in Pennsylvania and I am grateful for there are certain decisions I have made along the way and once upon a time I knew I would do whatever I could to be there for my friend when the time came to send his grandfather off peacefully.

Because don't we do that for each other, for our friends? We are there to celebrate the births, and commemorate the lives before the deaths, and for everything in between.

1 comment:

N said...

I liked this post; it was very insightful. Years ago, I remember seeing a religious mural that depicted a man's life. It started with arms from heaven passing him down as a baby on the far left of the mural, then it showed him progressing through childhood, teenage years, and then adulthood, marrying and becoming a parent himself, growing older, passing through his 50's & 60's, then becoming a grandparent, then after getting older and grayer, it shows the same arms from heaven reaching down to embrace him as he dies.

With or without the religious context, it's certainly something to consider. I marvel that I'm as far along "the mural" as I am... that those who are my parents and grandparents are steadily moving closer to "the end of the mural." I, too, am moving closer, with my children filling in the ranks behind me.

It's surprising to see how our roles change as life progresses. I suppose one day I'll wake up, find that I am at the front of the line, and inching ever closer to my final moments. I'm hoping I'll have much satisfaction and little regret with how I've lived.

Thanks for sharing your perspectives on life and death :)