On February 8th, my aunt Claire died of cancer at age 54. Four days later, my Gram (grandmother if you aren’t up on the vernacular) turned 90. Five days after that my son, my youngest child, turned one.
Sometimes life likes to take a moment and remind exactly how unpredictable it can be by throwing everything at you all at once. My aunt died far too early, my Gram is still going strong, and my son is just getting started. All “pointed out” to be over the course of nine days.
It’s hard to draw much of a meta-commentary with those three data points. Except, of course, that life is fragile and quick. Which, frankly, is not something I need to be reminded of. I’m aware.
But in trying to make sense of the random senseless, I kept returning to an entirely unrelated memory. A Saturday last month, sitting on the bathroom floor, drinking coffee as my daughter, my oldest child, splashes around in the tub. We were chatting about this and that and she was doing what she calls “tricks” (essentially, spinning on her knees in the water) and it was all so utterly…normal. Average. And yet…it was great.
The coffee was hot and tasted good and I had made it myself, a reality I’m still not fully accustomed to. I have reached a point in my life where I can make myself coffee. It’s kind of wild.
And there was my daughter, talking away, loving being in the tub, and just being a ton of fun. I am sure at some point that day she got upset and cried or screamed or told me to stop talking, but I don’t remember that. I remember this. Which is great.
But the thing is, if I didn’t write down that memory, if I just left it dwelling in my head, I might have lost it. Because one of the most beautiful things and hardest things about life is these moments, these moments of simple pleasure, they pile up.
Not for all of us, to be certain. Some of us, too many, live lives marked by chaos, strife, pain, and sadness. But for more of us—I think…I hope—for more of us, life is generally good. There is plenty we would change, perhaps, but overall, the positives outweigh the negatives. And for those of us with those kinds of lives, the Saturday morning father-daughter bonding sessions and the Friday night spouse date nights, and the friends’ hangouts and the work successes and so on, they accumulate. They overwhelm our brains. There are so many of them, so many moments of short lived but nonetheless real bliss that we cannot hold on to them all. We will inevitably forget some of them, they will be washed away in the tidal wave of day to day existence.
That’s sad. And wonderful. It’s sad to realize that these seconds, minutes, or hours will, someday, cease to exist in our minds. But it’s also wonderful because the reason we will have lost them is to make room for another such moment, another such memory.
Now does that put a nice bow on nine days that saw my son become a one year old, my Gram break into her 90’s, and my aunt’s heart stop beating at 54? It does not.
But then, what could?
Instead, it’s just something to keep close to my heart, be it in times like these or in the long stretches of life that pump along with little by way of ups and downs. The inevitable conclusion of life takes everything (that we can see and perceive) away from us, it’s true. But every beat, every breath, every second that precedes that final moment? They’re shot through with simple, undeniable joys.
Like hot coffee, warm radiators, and daughters giggling and showing off their tricks.