The subject of death is taboo to so many people. In many religions, it is considered a rite of passage or the passing from one existence to another. It is the circle of life. I believe it can be peaceful. But not for the ones we leave behind. For them there is pain and sadness. I lost my own father when I was a teenager. Some of my siblings were older then I was when he died and some of them were younger. We all have fleeting images and varied memories of him. Except for my youngest sibling. She was only seven and has no memory of him whatsoever. I remember her as daddy’s girl, their laughter and teasing, the close times they shared. It seemed inconceivable to me that she could not remember any of that. And yet there it was.
So it made me realize that if I were to leave this earth when my children were young, they would not have a memory of me. That was a cold spear in my heart. How could they not remember the daily cuddles or the nonstop care when they were sick? The laughter and jokes we made up? The books we read together, the movies we saw. The birthday parties. The traditions we created together. The places we traveled and experiences. Field trips. Plane rides. School concerts. Family nights. Bedtime rituals, morning rituals. The thousands of hugs and kisses. How could all of that life and living not be remembered?
It was not something I allowed myself to dwell on but I tried to make everything we did as something that could be remembered. And now I am one of the fortunate ones. I am still here watching my children grow into adulthood. They do remember me and many of the things we have done together. We can laugh about silly past events or childhood rituals they have left behind. We can celebrate the big and little steps they have achieved. I feel so much pride in the people they have become. But time is a greedy thing. Or rather I am greedy for time. I want more and more of them. I want to see what they will accomplish in the world, to be with them through their middle age and more. Which brings in another issue about time and memory.
My own mother has enjoyed a very long life relatively free of major health issues. She is healthy even at her ripe old age. But ten years ago a disease started to erode her brain. It took away her memories one by one so that today when we, her children, visit her she cannot remember our names. We are shadowy images that tease her but never allow her to fully remember. And so it begs the question. If I am blessed to live to a ripe old age to watch my children grow, will I remember them?
We do not get to choose when we are born and we don’t choose when we die. But we can choose how to live the life we have. To have one more day to embrace my children as we watch each other grow. That is both my prayer and the challenge I am willing to face.