When my father unexpectedly became ill a few weeks ago, I was nearly paralyzed with fear that this would be “it.” After all, he is 80, so it wouldn’t be unheard of for him to have a health problem that resulted in his death. I’ve been telling myself for the last 20 years that, at least from a medical perspective, I need to prepare myself for the unexpected. Sadly, it turns out that I’m not prepared at all.
Death at my parents’ ages is, well, more expected than at any younger age, isn’t it? It was unexpected when a classmate was killed in a car accident during our junior year in high school. It was unexpected when my thirty-something neighbor, the mother of two young boys, came out the loser in a battle with cancer. It was unexpected when a dear friend died of breast cancer when she was just 25 years old. It was unexpected when the father of one of Nick’s friends committed suicide in the family’s garage.
It’s not unexpected for people to die when they are in their 80′s. If they are extremely lucky, they will continue celebrating life for at least another decade. I become very childlike when I start to think about these things. As far as I’m concerned, I want my parents to live forever.
There may be some positives in terms of estate planning and choosing your own casket or urn, but it the big scheme of things, I rather put that burden on my loved ones.
I was blasted with a tidal wave of emotions when I saw my father strapped to a gurney and wheeled out of his house to the waiting ambulance, tubes inserted, monitors attached, and lights blinking the fragile state of his life to the attending paramedics. It occurred to me just how lucky I am to still have my parents with me here on this blue planet. And I wondered what made them different from the parents of many of my friends and family members who lived far shorter lives.
There aren’t any easy answers. And when it comes to people of similar health, lifestyles and social backgrounds, it seems like the decision for who goes and who stays is pretty random. And that, perhaps, is the scariest thought of all. Then again, I can’t say I’d want to know a firm date in advance for the demise of myself and my family members. There may be some positives in terms of estate planning and choosing your own casket or urn, but it the big scheme of things, I rather put that burden on my loved ones. If there are any left to care about my final resting place or celebrate my life at my funeral. I often worry that no one will show up at my funeral, so maybe I just ought to nix it right now and prevent my family members from the embarrassing revelation that in the end, no one really loved me or even liked me enough to say a proper goodbye at a memorial service.
My father has recovered, my mother remains in good health, and it seems I have dodged another bullet, at least for the time being. Although I like to consider myself an attentive daughter, it is clear that I need to spend much more time with my parents, soaking up the details of their lives, gleaning wisdom and insight from their life experiences, and just hugging them and holding them and letting them know how much I love them. They already know these things, but it never hurts to show them and tell them again.
Because the crazy thing about death is that you never know when it’s going to happen.