Moving forward and discovering the richness to be savored in a fleeting life, Himay Zepeda reflects on it all.
I recently visited my parents. They live a few hundred miles away and are now in their 70s. The time I spent with them was great. It mostly involved me eating a lot of great Mexican food and watching numerous news shows and telenovelas in Spanish (women in tight dresses everywhere!). But I got to see my folks, which I am not often able to do. After a few days with them I drove back north to Oakland.
The drive back shed a light on the slight cracks I had just witnessed. This is one of the reasons I look forward to long drives: they are meditative and help you consider the tough stuff. After you give up finding a decent radio station, it’s just you and the road. You have plenty of mind space to ponder. Sometimes, the stuff worth pondering is dark.
During this four-wheel meditation I replayed my time with my folks. They are in their old age, and so I noticed their slower walk, how quickly they tire, and how sad they now get when I leave. This all carved a hole through my stomach.
Anybody who has parents that are past their 65th birthday knows what I am talking about. The average life expectancy is an increasingly glaring number that you can’t ignore.
I was reminded of death. I was reminded of how limited my time with them is. I was reminded of how finite they, me, and everyone and everything in this world truly are. I was reminded of this (their) particular death.
We are a small and spread out family. If this were to happen, it would be immense, because we would’ve lost an immense and irreplaceable part of our body. I think it would be like losing a couple of limbs. But honestly, I don’t know how I will react. I thought about this while on the road, and wondered. What will happen when, you know…how will I accept that truth…will I even be able to accept it?
Does anybody know how they’ll react when something like this happens? I know people who reacted to this with stoicism, as if they were so overwhelmed by the flood of emotions that none could get out. Others were completely broken by this, and eventually emerged as a different person. A sort of rebirth.
That is not here yet. I shouldn’t worry about that now (right?).
Thinking about this truth (probably the hardest truth to accept, yet the truest of them all) made me consider what I do have now. I do have my parents, alive and well, right now. I do have my loved ones, alive and well, right now. I, too, am alive and well. I can’t do much about the inevitable future, but I can appreciate the present. I can recognize that they are here, still capable and still expecting my love, and that, by itself, is a grand blessing. Oddly, thinking of death reminds you of the blessings of life.
Thinking about death can seem pretty dark. That can be true if you dwell on it. If you use it to frame life, however, you instill a sense of urgency and value that you might’ve been taken for granted before.
I think about death in this way more often than most folks. This may make me a bit of weirdo, but it’s helped me appreciate my present state. It helps remind me of that what I have and how easily this could be taken away.
After my eight hour drive, I gave my parents a call. I let them know I got home safe and how much I enjoyed my time with them. I also told them I loved them, and listed the reasons why. They asked me if I was OK. I was, and everything is fine, but I just wanted to make sure they knew how much they mattered to me at that moment.
More from Himay at GMP
Photo: Flickr/Adam Smith