I’ve been to a lot of funerals in my time. More than I like to remember, but the one constant I take away is how nice it is seeing familiar faces again. Faces of long distance relatives and friends I hadn’t seen in ages. Here, we have an opportunity to catch up on all that’s new, but just as it gets interesting we’re called to the business at hand, the funeral and we remember why we’ve gathered in the first place. I can’t count the number of times I found myself saying we have to get together for a happy occasion sometime soon. Isn’t that what’s always said? Yet, never seems to happen.
Funerals and cancer both have a way of making happy occasions a rarity, but both have taught me to take one day at a time…live for the moment…find some joy everyday. All those sunshiny cliches are true. They have to be. Cancer won’t let the happy days last. My great fear is cancer lurking around the next corner, waiting to ruin a new day. In living this way, I’ve lost sight of time’s big picture. My view of a whole life has shrunk to small, individual moments and it’s hard to believe someone can live 80 years or more.
Remember being a kid thinking your grandparents were ancient, while in reality they were only in their 50’s and 60’s? They still had decades before them and I naively believed everyone would have that…all those years. Except it wasn’t to be, my grandmother saw her two daughters die at the early ages of 52 and 65. Two lives deprived of all those years, but affecting so many more. Children deprived of their mothers, husbands of wives and innocence shattered by life’s unfairness.
However, I’m relearning it’s not all bad. Some people actually do make 80 and make it look like a good time, enjoying their hobbies, their friends. My father is doing just that. He turned 80 this past week. Yet, it seems to have snuck up on me, and not because he didn’t mention it. He spoke of nothing else for months. So how was it I was missing the awesomeness of this achievement? Not seeing it for what it’s worth. Me? The one who looks for joy everyday?
Possibly, my head was buried so deep in the sand of crap that fills my day, dealing with my own diagnosis and its never ending fallout, while making a halfway decent attempt to raise kids, that somehow I missed this amazing feat. My small view of life wasn’t letting me pay attention to the big stuff outside my little circle. I was somehow missing the point of all this.
In honor of his birthday, my father wanted a party. With little cooperation and much grumbling from children too busy to pitch in, he still wanted it. To me, it seemed like a lot of unnecessary work and as a mother dealing with the cancer thing, I can’t take on any more work. My brain is on overload as it is, but what I had missed is what my father saw, a joyous reason to bring everyone together. He wanted it and was determined to get it.
When I finally lifted my head up and saw the group he had gathered last Saturday, I realized that maybe he also needed it. I had overlooked the fact that whatever I had lost over the years, he had also lost, but was thriving in spite of it all.
He threw a party filled with food, drink, and dancing for everyone he loved. A party where four generations came to celebrate a happy occasion, not a sad one, and it was great. Just as he knew it would be. In his 80 years, through loss and living, he’d learned that much.
Thanks, Dad. Happy birthday and here’s to many more.