This is a writing I penned in 2009 but want to share tonight. I think you will be able to relate to it.
Moments of a Life
This year got off to a rough start and the road has continued to be a bumpy one. I celebrated my birthday on the second day of the year and in the days after I had to acknowledge that I have lived for half a century now. A lot of learning has taken place in those fifty years and every step I took along the way has molded the woman I have become. Some call it life experience, some call it childhood, and some call it “training” a human being to be an adult. I've been thinking about a few of those life lessons today. I do this every time I hear of a death that touches my life in some way.
Our parents, our grandparents, our guardians, even our extended family has a hand in helping to teach us what is expected from us as we grow and become adults. In my childhood home manners were not an option, they were expected. We were taught to say “Please” and “Thank You” from the very first day we came home after our birth. We were taught by example; our parents used manners and we did too because it came right along with learning to talk. They wanted us to think of others and as my mother always told us, “Teaching starts in the home.”
We learned to say “Good morning” and “Good night” without realizing it was a way for our parents to keep track of us and either know that we were in a room with them or that it was safe for them to talk about adult subjects because we had gone to bed for the night.
Some of our hardest lessons came in the form of dealing with sibling rivalry and aggression. There were moments when my brother and I would have been fist fighting in the blink of an eye if we could have gotten away with it. One roll of the eyes could give either one of us that familiar sensation that this had happened before, in fact, maybe it was happening all the time. “MOM! He’s looking at me funny again!”
My mother’s solution to the problem was to make both of us sit down on opposite ends of the room until we could act like a brother and sister “should act.” We didn't know how to do that at the time, but by having to be perfectly quiet and sit still without moving we learned to pick and choose our battles.
Transitions in life teach us to always strive for more, to always improve ourselves, to strive for personal growth. We learn social skills and empathy. We seek wisdom and we reek of responsibility. The lessons are even deeper for a female because as she ages she is expected to become a caretaker to everyone she loves and cares about.
In the same respect, we learned about grief and how families mourn for loved ones who have passed from this life. When I was a young child, “wakes” or “viewings” were held in the family home of the deceased. Friends and relatives came to view the body and often carried in a pie, a can of coffee, or even a casserole dish for the family to serve to anyone in the house as needed. Many stories were told about the life of the departed and while the immediate family was grieving, very often laughter would be heard as people who had not seen each other in a very long time reconnected.
These wakes did not end at any particular time of the evening. It was not unusual for people to actually fall asleep in chairs set up throughout the house. A couple of relatives, usually a father and uncle, or sometimes brothers, stayed awake all night in the room where the viewing took place. Through the years, many stories evolved from the wakes and most of the stories were so funny you could not help but laugh. I learned not to fear death and from an early age I understood that we are all going to pass from this life at some point in time, we just never know when.
The hardest part of losing a loved one is the private soul searching we do as we wade through every memory, every event, and every decision we have made during life. Conflicts and disagreements swirl in our mind as if they are dancing with our soul. We tend to replay difficult conversations as if they were filmed for public viewing. We allow our minds to roam to the negative moments in the life we shared with someone else and we swim in a sea of regret. We fail to understand that every spat we had, every fear we felt, every laugh we shared and every kindness we offered were the moments of a life that helped us to form a bond, to share a connection, to be complete human beings.
There will never be a world or a relationship that is totally free of all problems. Parents do not always agree with their children. Siblings often battle between themselves and those battles often produce achievers in our society.
We all need to be a bit more kind if we can but not to the point of becoming a doormat. We can be more open-minded but not follow anyone along blindly like rats following the Pied Piper. We can become more accepting of one another and most of all, we can show gratitude for the time we were blessed to have someone in our life. Grieving is a moment in a life that is unavoidable but as long as we are alive we can keep the memory of our loved one alive.
Moments of a life: birth, reaching, grasping, desiring, achieving, setting goals, falling, loving, hating, playfulness, sulking, humility, creativity, passion, denial, adventure, acceptance, and finally, the natural end to life; death. It is not that final moment when we die that is most important, instead, it is all of the moments of a life that lead to that point.
Tonight as I gaze into the sky, I will appreciate the fact that I am a very small piece of a puzzle in the grand scheme of things. I will experience many moments in this life including new life and the loss of other lives. I am blessed, however, to be a part of the magic that surrounds me. Just this once, I will pause long enough to feel my heart beat. I will stand and say a few words to the people I miss so much and tomorrow I will live my life in the fullest way I possibly can. I know they would want that for me.
© Dianna Doles Petry