By Anita Garner
Several friends died in one recent week and another just received word that she has probably spent her last Christmas here. Those of us of an age are reminded every day with every loss that we’ve used up more of life than is left to us.
Obituaries list accomplishments, relationships, family ties, travels, hobbies and service to the community. I read them and am proud of the lives they lived but my memories are mostly about everyday conversations, back when we didn’t know what day they’d be leaving.
Every time I say goodbye to a friend the “why” ritual begins. Why him? Why her? Why am I still here? Am I doing what I’m meant to be doing with whatever time is left? I don’t think we consider purpose often enough in our younger years but now it’s a constant. I move on to prayers of gratitude for every blessing so far. I commune with those who left.
I remember some of our last encounters. Most of our conversations were about small things, with the exception of Ed who was never anything but intense, therefore there were no small things.
Paulette explained to me repeatedly how she grew the extraordinary hydrangeas in her garden. She offered pruning tips and feeding tips but remained puzzled that though I tried to follow her advice I was never able to replicate her success. I could manage a couple of plants with a modest number of blossoms. For Paulette, hydrangeas grew halfway up the side of her house and showed off every time I passed by.
I remember the combination of turmoil and soul and business acumen that was Eddie. Talented and driven and always swirling around inside some creative vortex, near the end of his life he was awed by the steadfast nature of his wife. Kathy had passed years before but in every conversation before he left, he still wanted to talk about her, about how he hadn’t been nearly a good enough husband for her.
Memory replays conversations with a friend scheduled for surgery some years back. Pete was apprehensive about the operation, but because he was so well prepared for the active future he envisioned, we all pushed back those fears. Over glasses of good wine (one of his passions) he held forth about his plans for the near future. He was excited that he’d done well enough to afford to buy a sweet spot in California’s Gold Country because Sandra loved it and a new home they prepared to occupy at De Silva Island in Mill Valley. He didn’t move into either place. He was gone as soon as surgery began.
Losses remind us to get our own things in order but it’s the nature of the living to believe we have at least this one more day to do it. We say goodbye to dear ones and also remind ourselves there’s no guilt in celebrating every time we welcome a sunrise. I hope it’s what they’d be doing if they were here.