I think I’ll take The Who’s advice and start talkin’ ‘bout my generation. Fittingly dubbed The Sandwich generation, this group of 50 and 60 something’s are pulled in both directions. Our children are 20 – 30 years younger then we are. Our parents are 20 – 30 years older then we are. We have become the caretakers of both. In doing so we have come to relate to not just to our generation but to two others. In my mind, that keeps us young or at least it keeps us on our toes. And sometimes the challenge is just to keep up at all.
Every generation believes theirs was better then the last generation. Better music, clothes, cultural icons. We are better educated, more aware, cooler and hipper. I pride myself in thinking I can relate to my children’s generation. “Oh” I tell them “that sounds just like an 80’s band, we broke the mold”. But whether or not that is true, I am starting to fully appreciate my parent’s generation. After all whatever path they forged allowed my generation to flourish even more fully. One day my children’s generation will think that of mine.
The sad thing about my generation is that we are starting to lose each other. The one common thing among all generations is our mortality. Music lives on, art and books, innovations in medicine and science but our frail selves do not. This past weekend I remembered and mourned and celebrated a dear friend who had passed eleven years ago. I was able to have this cathartic event with two other women who were as impacted by this friend’s death as I was. One was her other dear friend and one was her daughter. Two generations. One heartache.
What’s common among generations is when someone you love does die, those left behind are full of questions. What happened? Why? Trying to find meaning in an event so we can deal with the pain is such a human thing but not exclusive to humans. I have read recently of the intelligence of elephants. How when they come upon the carcass of an elephant that has died, they cover it lovingly with branches, they caress it and often sit with it for a time until they move on. As humans we try to do that too. Even after an event years past we try to find meaning and peace and comfort each other.
I was reminded during the events of this week that death is not really final. We are left with so much of the loved one. Not just memories but scents and textures. The DNA of the next generation carries a laugh, a smile, a human quirk that is totally the last person’s characteristics. In my bonding of this past weekend, my friend felt more alive to me then she had in years. I still have so many questions. And things I will never understand about her life choices but it’s okay. I don’t need to. I can rejoice in the life she did have and the things I drew from it and be thankful.
So this week my loving trio of women danced and sang, we laughed and cried, we mourned and celebrated. We took long walks in the sun and the misty rain. It was the circle of life. It was healing. And that transcends generations.
It was fun to go back in time and remember each other as we were. We poured over photos of our younger selves with the one who was no longer with us. We shared our story with the younger generation and joined with their childhood memories of her too. That woman loved Mick Jagger and so it is fitting that I remember Mick’s lyrics and tell her I miss her like crazy. But all your loved ones from both generations are okay. Rest in peace, Jilly.