One of my colleagues is mourning her mother today. She died yesterday of a brain tumor after suffering for months and moving in and out of hospitals and care facilities, though her death itself seemed very sudden.
We found ourselves talking today about families, about what it was like to lose parents and be the oldest generation. I know I’m incredibly fortunate to be 53 years old and still have both of my parents alive and in good health. Each of my parents lost a parent of their own when in their mid-30’s and most of my friends have buried at least one if not both.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to be the oldest generation of my family, to not have my parents to visit and talk to on the phone several times a week. They’re not particularly profound conversations but they are chatty and newsy, and we keep each other up to date with what’s happening in our worlds. I diagnose computer problems and Mom shares recipes. Dad always checks to make sure my finances are in order. We all downplay any medical news.
My brother and I have our own conversations about them, of course, wondering how they’re doing and assessing whether forgetfulness is more frequent or how impaired mobility might be. All the legal documents are signed and in order – wills, living wills, health proxies. Funerals have been planned and paid for. My mom even has what she calls her “Boy Scout Folder” with everything legal things, account names and numbers, contact people, even text for their obituaries.
I hope I have my parents for many more years but am realistic enough to know that anything could happen at any time, as my friend here learned yesterday. So I’m extra glad that they’re coming to visit me next month, to see where I live now and the world that surrounds me at home and at work. We’ll have quiet time without the bustle of holiday doings and extra people around. I don’t really know that they will be back up here anytime soon; it’s easier for me to travel to them than for them to come to see me. My dad’s celebrating his 80th birthday in February and I’m hoping the weather cooperates for me to be there to celebrate with him.
Because family matters. It is to be celebrated and cherished, through rough times as well as happy ones, so that there are no regrets about things done or left undone when loved ones are no longer with us.