A Dying Time

When I was in late middle school and high school, which is to say the time when I lived in the trailer park and down the gravel road in the valley, a lot of family members died. I lost my grandfather, my grandmother, my cousin, a number of great aunts, my great-grandmother by marriage, and then my step-grandfather. Some were far off, but I attended between one and three funerals a year in that span. The older generation, those great aunts, were in their eighties, my grandparents died young, and my cousin was shot at 21.

Suddenly, I’m acutely aware of how those things are aligning again.

The autumn started with notices of death around us. Shortly thereafter, I learned that my aunt has cancer pretty badly, which has spurred a couple of trips to the St. Louis area.

I have since learned that my stepmother with whom I had a rocky relationship also has cancer pretty badly. I learned this from my grandmother, who let me know that fifteen people in the family have health issues of some sort or another.

So my aunts and uncles are getting into their sixties and seventies now. My mother-in-law is closing in on eighty. My grandmother is in her nineties, but you wouldn’t know it. And, who knows, maybe one of these random pains and little coughs I get might actually be the innocent symptom of Something Worse as I fear.

You know, you can recognize mortality and deal with it in one of two ways: You can appreciate every day what you have now and actively treasure those relationships, or you can dread the loss that you know is coming.

Me, I’m making more effort to see my family that lives outside Springfield (which is to say, all of them but my immediate family). I’m trying to live life with better experiences than the simple day-to-day maintenances (although now that St. Louis Blues Hockey games are $80 a ticket, they will be memorable because they’re scarce). I’m going to send more frequent notes and letters to my grandmother who has told me she loves them and reads them multiple times.

Still, even as I do these things, I am pretty sure I’ll dread the future losses. I said you can deal with it in one of two ways. I will do both and let my impulses battle it out in my psyche.

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