It was a good and hard Thanksgiving. Good to be with family. Hard to pack up two family members’ possessions into boxes and lists that will fit into an assisted living apartment.
The last thing my father ate before he died 28 years ago was a bite of yellow layer cake with chocolate icing. I remember thinking “He really is going to die” because he had never left a piece of cake uneaten in his entire life. I remember, as he became ornery due to the ravages of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that I jokingly said, “You’re going to be a cranky old man.” And he said – without a twinkle in his eye – “I’m already a cranky old man.” Actually he wasn’t old at all chronologically. But his twinkle-in-the-eye moments were over, at least on this side of heaven.
Life can make us cranky. Sprouting baby teeth. Enduring puberty. Figuring out young adulthood. Juggling work and family. Dealing with midlife. Worrying about debt as retirement is staring us in the face. Replacing knees and hips. Out-living loved ones. Moving into Senior Living space.
Years ago HH and I sat with a beloved parishioner in her high rise apartment while she waited for the moving van that would take her to a retirement facility in another state near her daughter. Stacks of boxes towered around us as she mournfully said, “You live your life and it all comes down to this. Boxes.”
After helping fill some of the boxes of life over the weekend, several things occur to me:
- When we think back over the years and can’t pick our very favorite decade – because all of them were wonderful in their own ways in spite of inevitable failures and losses – we’ve experienced unspeakable privilege.
- We all need less stuff. I loved the term “Black Friday of the Soul” here and then I felt PTSD when I read this recently. Survivors will thank us if we stop buying/hoarding/collecting/hanging onto stuff.
- Experiences with people we love are excellent gifts.
- It’s important to use what we have. Take the plastic off the furniture. Burn the candle shaped like the Statue of Liberty. Eat the chocolate pumpkin.
Our decades are precious and if we are fortunate, we get several of them filled with more joy than sorrow. And once we recognize that giving thanks is an essential life practice, the next step is to ensure that others also enjoy more joy than sorrow in their decades too.
This is the meaning of life. (I especially like the way Jesus put it.)
Image source which also states that U.S. life expectancy dropped in both 2016 and 2017, partially due to despair.