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One Man's Meaning of Life - A Letter to Mom

Posted 05-22-2016 at 03:19 PM by ijustdoit
I came to visit you today Mom. I know I am a week late for which I have no excuse. We planted beautiful spring flowers next to you and Dad since I know how important blooming flowers were to you and Dad. It is a cool, crisp, sunny day with spring in the air. A soft breeze helps to dry my face after watering your new flowers with my tears. I guess I never envisioned bringing you flowers while your body lay entombed in the earth. Perhaps if there had been time to ponder your demise during a lengthy illness or frail health, it might make more sense to me. But being suddenly taken from your family is still hard to comprehend. It felt like yesterday when I held your hand while you lay lifeless on a hospital bed. I tried so hard to connect with your spirit so that I could say goodbye. To hear your words, “don’t worry, everything will be ok.” You did not respond. Your body refused to move despite my intense concentration to connect with you.

We are all dying, one day at a time. Some of us have more days left than others. Most cannot choose when the final day will arrive. We can choose, however, what we do with the rest of our days and hours. I have tried hard to find some meaning in your untimely departure. I have to admit, I am having a tough time. You loved your family, your friends and your grandchildren. Most of all, you loved Dad. Dad left us after a brief illness a relatively short time before you left us. Some deeply spiritual people are convinced Dad took you so that the two of you could be reunited. Not sure if I agree with that reason since Dad was not selfish. He would never deprive you of your time with your family. Since you were an only child and raised four boys, you relished your time with your granddaughters. I do not think it was your decision to leave since you loved life and deeply cared about those around you. Also, the fact the Cubs finally have a good team which could go all the way would have kept your around until at least October. I guess you were right after all, the Cubs were never going to do it in your lifetime.

So where do I search for meaning? The heart? The mind? I know there is the constant dialogue with the mind about what is really important. Everything in this world is temporary and constantly changing. Our attitudes, our bodies, our experiences and everything around us continually changes. When Dad died I realized we are all mortal. I naively thought that bad things only happen to other people. That death, as well as the acceptance of death, was a gradual process to ease into. In the back of my mind I knew this was not true but I did not think I would get slapped in the face with reality. I have accepted the fact your passing is “normal” in the grand scheme of life. I empathize more with others who have lost children and family though violence or accident. I am not sure if your death was an accident but I will assure you I will find out soon. I know you would have it no other way. I know it does not change the outcome but it will partially answer some of our questions.

Anyway, back to life’s meaning. What has your death taught me? There are a couple things which stand out. First, don’t wait until tomorrow to follow your passions. This is probably the hardest goal since there are so many things I want to accomplish but many obstacles in the way. The pursuit of one’s passions must be balanced against children, finances, work and general life responsibilities. I realize I am now on the backside of the mountain of life looking down. I am not sure how much longer it will take to reach the bottom but I know I must try to enjoy the journey down or risk falling into the abyss. I must remind myself to take more time to explore and truly enjoy the temporary time we have on this planet.

Develop a flight plan to follow. Where do I want to be five, ten or twenty years from now? Like a plane, we tend to be off course a great deal of the time. However, a pilot is constantly making corrections along the route to get the plane where it needs to go. It is ok to veer off course as long as the plane does not stray too far. Without making the necessary adjustments, the plane will end up where you did not want to go or crash into the mountain. I wonder in my heart if you got to where you wanted to go. I am certainly aware of the plane being off course many a time throughout the years but you had an uncanny ability to bring the plane back to its intended flight path. By losing you as the pilot, I truly feel the plane has strayed a significant way from its flight path. There has been turbulence, stalls and some smooth patches but its destination remains to be seen. I do not think any of your co-pilots have stepped up yet to get the plane where it needs to go. It is up to us to get the plane back on the path you started.

I know it is a worn out cliché, but live with no regrets. We all say this but do we all walk the walk. When I was younger I thought I had all the time in the world. I do not feel that way anymore. Time is precious. Is it being used productively? Using a football analogy, did I advance the ball today or am I still playing defense? I know life became very different for you after losing Dad. You can’t be married to someone for 55 years and not feel like part of you dies along with your spouse. I know we did not discuss it because your death was sudden, but I do not feel you had any regrets. Even after Dad’s death, you plowed ahead and were determined to live life to its fullest. You never gave up. You never fell into obvious despair or deep depression. I can only pray you did not leave this world with any regrets about your decisions or actions.

I realize our personalities are an accumulation of our life decisions and experiences. Certainly, your life experiences and decisions were much different than mine. However, at the end of the day, we must personally make decisions which will lead a fulfilling and blessed life. I will never forget sitting next to you at Dad’s hospital bed. I do not think the doctor told Dad yet that the pancreatic cancer would soon kill him, but I will never forget his words. Within genuine sincerity he uttered, “I have been very lucky.” Those words punched me in the stomach. They still make my eyes water when I reflect on them. He knew the end was near. He did not express fear. He did not express regret. He did not express sorrow. He only expressed genuine love and appreciation. I can only pray he is where is wanted to go and has no regrets about the path he chose to get there.

It truly bothers me you did not get to reflect on your life at the end. Unlike Dad, I was not with you when you took your last breath. I am so glad I called you the night before your procedure. I know you felt better when I assured you the worst that could happen is you might have a sore throat afterwards. I deeply regret not being with you during the procedure but death was never contemplated by anyone. I know in my heart you would have never agreed to such a procedure if there was a risk of death. Unlike Dad, you had no idea you were that close to the bottom of the mountain of life. Given the choice (which of course I will not have), when I get near the bottom I want to be able to look up the mountain and say, “I have been very lucky.” However, in the meantime, your sudden death taught me to periodically stop on the way down the mountain, look back to where I have been, and experience profound gratitude for my travels. Hopefully, with life choices I am making to take care of my mind and body, my legs will remain strong for many more years to explore what is left of my mountain. Of course, you and Dad will always be with me in my travels. You provided me with the tools to use to navigate the rocky terrain and I will endeavor to use them to the best of my ability. Hopefully, one day we will be able to meet again to embrace and share the memories of our travels.
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katydid's Avatar
Very beautiful.

I love your dad's words "I have been very lucky." I'm beginning to think life is about luck a lot more than I believed. It is amazing that he realized how wonderfully he had lived and I'm sure in her way your mom believed the same way.

She sounds like she loved the things in her life. It is what we do more than anything we say that reveals what everything means to us. Sounds like you already know that your mom also thought she was very lucky.
Posted 05-22-2016 at 06:25 PM by katydid katydid is offline
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Just A Girl's Avatar
You put into words exactly how I feel. It's a unique feeling when both your parents are gone. You describe it beautifully.
Posted 06-15-2016 at 04:04 PM by Just A Girl Just A Girl is offline
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Atrebla Rose's Avatar
Very Beautiful, and so true, you have to walk the talk. Life is too short, love the people you meet, no matter how short the encounter is, and live each day as it is your last. Let go of that shit that you keep looking back to, you can not change one aspect, one second. Tomorrow might never come. Do today what you can!
Posted 08-21-2018 at 09:48 PM by Atrebla Rose Atrebla Rose is offline
 
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