I’ve mentioned before that I’m a huge fan of This Is Us. The writing is so well done that I find myself identifying with the stories and characters on a personal level, and there has yet to be an episode that did not make me cry either tears of joy or remembrance of sadness. By happenstance the father’s name in the series is Jack which was my Daddy moniker as well. There are three children, two boys and one girl, just like my family saver for the idea of being triplets with the same birthday. The father died suddenly and tragically while the kids were still young as did mine. So many of the stories touch a still very tender part of my heart that I could write entire blogs each time I tune in to watch the show.
Last week there were again a number of moments that I found to have parallels with my own life which caused me to cry more than once. The moment that has stuck with me the most centered around a conversation with one of the characters and his pastor. It spoke to that moment in the future when we grow very old and are lying under a blanket with the full understanding that our time here on earth is drawing to an end. In those instances virtually every human thinks back on life and remembers the ebb and the flow of existence. What we humans recall invariably centers around the simple times that we shared with people that we love, not so much on what we owned or how much power we amassed. The question we face is whether or not we concentrated enough on the truly important aspects of living or if we were distracted by the glitter of insignificant things.
I suppose that I think about such scenarios more often than I once might have because I see friends and family members dying more often these days. The aging process has placed me in an uncomfortable stage of life when the inevitable has become more the norm. I think of my mother-in-law once lamenting that her social life included far more funerals and visits to hospitals than she wanted to have. I had to admit that she seemed to have to make some death or health visit on a regular basis as she and her peers began to grow a bit more old and fragile. It was hard for her to be continually witnessing sadness.
Now that I am nearing the same age at which my mother-in-law began to lament the losses that she was experiencing I too understand how difficult it is to watch the demise of dear people that I have known for all of my life. I still appear to be in good health, but I know that my ultimate fate will be just as it has been for every person who has ever walked on this earth. At some point I will be lying under a blanket facing the stark reality that I do not have much longer to be part of the grand story of humans. I will no doubt be viewing my own time and thinking of the moments that were the most extraordinary to me. Like all people in that condition I will probably recall the simple things, the times that made me and my loved ones smile.
I suspect that we all get so caught up in the challenges of the world that we become obsessed with worries that divert us from our purposes and the true meanings of life. Our greatest joys ultimately boil down to seemingly trivial remembrances. Like Citizen Kane we recall that moment as a child when a sled that we called Rosebud brought us unmitigated joy. Not all of the possessions in the world compare with the exhilaration of being totally in the moment of fun with people in whom we trust.
When I think back on my seventy years I see my father reading to me, my mother tucking me in at night with a sweet smile and a kiss, my grandmother padding softly on bare feet bearing a mug of hot coffee for me, my grandfather puffing on his pipe and telling me stories, my husband telling me how much he loves me, my children laughing and playing on our camping trips, my grandchildren so earnestly asking for my wisdom, my brothers standing by me in even the hardest times, my friends bringing me fun and laughter and an attentive ear. I think of the wonders that I have seen in my travels like the rainbow arching over the mountains in Glacier National Park or the breathtaking views on Trail Ridge Road. I see the sunset in Grand Canyon and mankind’s ingenuity on the Golden Gate Bridge. I think of each of my students and the earnestness of even the most difficult among them. I see my teachers and the neighbors who sustained me in both good and bad times.
What does not come to mind are the things that so often take up most of our time. The worries of the past seem so trivial. The only legacy that matters is whether or not I have lived generously and fairly. If I have done my best to be a good person, then I will have achieved the greatest possible success in life.
Most of the people who have gone to their heavenly rewards before me have left little of material worth, but the inheritance of glorious memories that they gave me has made me rich. I am stronger because they showed me how to truly live in a world filled with moments that test us and take us to the brink. They have provided me with the kind of memories that sustain me again and again. I am all the better because they taught me how to rely on the goodness that is so bountiful around us. They showed me how to enjoy however much time that I have to its fullest. They were not afraid of lying under a blanket and reviewing their lives nor will I be when it is my turn to look back. As far now I know that much joy lies ahead and I choose to look forward without fear.