I haven’t written anything with publication in mind for almost three years, but I have done a lot of writing, just because it remains one of the best ways for me to muddle through life. Every now and again, I discover, in the writing, something I want to share because it isn’t just about me, but about Life. How pretentious is that! But surely all writers plunge headlong into ostentatious territory with fewer inhibitions than those who are lucky enough to have escaped the need to chronicle their lives.
I’ve had two years of struggling with mood disorder – chemical imbalance, brain gone fritzy, medication a reliable crutch, and an understanding family propping me up. Then, a year ago, July 22, 2013, my only sister, my best friend, died. I won’t dwell on grief. Each of us deals with it in our own way. Life is ultimately about endings and loss – this, I learned and thought I was prepared to accept years ago. But that doesn’t lessen the pain and the great hole in the hearts and lives of the people who grieve. The human condition. And would we want to be without these feelings, carry on as though the candy bowl was still full?
On July 22, I visited the peaceful memorial gardens for the first time since my sister’s ashes were placed in a burial vault there. I’d attempted two previous visits, but backed away when I realized I was doing this because I felt I “should” rather than because I wanted to acknowledge the day. The inscription my brother-in-law chose for the plaque on that small vault was enough to make me glad I was there: “Lent by God to be Loved by Us.” Whether one believes in one God or another, in a Creator, in the the Universe, or whatever your belief in how it all began, we all arrive on the planet with a return ticket. In this difficult “first year”, I’ve tried to ride out waves of anger and deep sadness, with gratitude for having my sister in my life for all these sixty-six years. Not there yet, but faith keeps me moving in that direction.
Yesterday we had what has become an annual birthday celebration for my son, my nephew, and his daughter, who have birthdays within two days of each other early in July. This year we included Margaux, Stefan’s girlfriend of so many years that she’s part of the family, and her parents as well because Margaux’s birthday is also in July. Another difficult “first” but as I watched Sharon’s grandchildren flit about, and considered the love and the strength of the family, I was reminded yet again, that these are the times that matter. Time spent with the people we love, in the time we are given. Carpe diem. I’m determined to start each day with these enduring words from Horace’s Odes. And I gently offer them to you on this day.