And so…in keeping with the philosophy that Mother – with a capital ‘M’ of course – always knows best, I am pleased to inform you that I have now been on this earth for 82 years, three month, 19 days, seven hours, and 27 minutes, give or take a second or two here or there.
In all of that time, I have gained a little wisdom, lost a lot of knowledge, loved in many ways, made a number of very good choices as well as several that left something to be desired. I have learned that every time I wish to speak is exactly the time when I should keep my mouth closed and listen. I have learned that the person you love the most is, all too often, the person you will lose all too soon. Only then, after that person is gone, and I mean…is dead…only then will you realize precisely what you had held in your arms. And it hurts. No one can ever describe to you the pain of loss. Unfortunately, it is something that you will experience, and for that, I already feel badly for you. The pain of suffering that loss does lessen, but then, there will come times when the pain comes rushing back and you find yourself having to urge it back into its place in your heart and in your memory, and move on.
This is not, to use the old cliché, “life’s a bitch and then you die.” No, no, no, no, it is nothing like that. For one thing, the loss you suffered is the last thing that person would ever want for you. Every minute of every hour of every day is worth living and worth living to the greatest extent possible, no matter the memories or the pain of those memories. Maya Angelou wrote, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” Amen to that.
To those of you who still have your parents, I would offer this bit of advice: Use them as a resource. Ask them the questions you think you or they will be too embarrassed to answer. Ask them anything. Ask about growing up. Ask about ugly Aunt Hilda they always whisper about. Ask, ask, and ask. My parents are long gone, and even today, there are questions that I have for them that I should have asked when I was younger. One of those questions is, “How did you guys make it through the Great Depression with two children under the age of five?” That may not seem like a very important question to you, but then, you weren’t a Depression-era kid. Your folks probably never stood in bread lines or had to seek work when there was no work to be found…anywhere. I remember a young woman from Hanover (MA) who borrowed by pocket tape recorder because she wanted to interview her elderly grandmother. It’s impossible to tell you the gratitude she showed after learning so much about grandma’s life. Older people are the raw jewels, polished to a fine finish, who can both enlighten, brighten, and increase the wisdom of the young merely by speaking a few words.
American actor, Bradley Whitford said, “Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen… yourself, right now, right down here on Earth.” You don’t have to accept every word, but accept this: To the best of our knowledge, we only pass this way once…that we know of. Why then would we want to do anything else but make it the very best ‘once’ that could ever be?
Kevyn Aucoin was an American make-up artist, photographer and author. In his forty short years on this earth, he lived every moment as if it was his last. His mantra was simple: “Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” Aucoin died, officially, from a prescription drug overdose. His pain came because of an undiagnosed tumor, yet, he still embraced his life.
If every morning you get up and look in the bathroom mirror, be certain that you smile. That person looking back will carry that smile the entire day if you let it. Take it from an old man who has learned to love life, even through the pain of loss. Oh, yeah, one more thing…while you’re having a great time with your own life, try to make life better for someone else. You’ll make for yourself a better life by what you give rather than what you get.