Wednesday, April 3, 2013

live like you were dying

One of my favorite photos ever of Betty, taken by me in June 2011
during our family vacation in Strathmere, NJ. 

Let me clear up something right from the get-go, for any relatives or potential employers googling my name who are reading this:

I'm not dying.

At least, not to my knowledge and not in the sense that one thinks of when one proclaims that they're dying.

What I am doing is celebrating another birthday today.

Mine.

And it's a big one.

Not big in the kind of birthday with a 0 at the end of one's chronological age. Not big in the kind of birthday surrounded by surprise parties or mid-life crises.

But one that I have been conscious of since I turned sweet 16, a birthday that bided its time in the distance, taking a step closer with every passing year. Most of the time, I hardly noticed the creeping numbers as I was busy with other things - college, early marriage, infertility treatments, houses, jobs.

When the kids arrived, the numbers came closer. They stood on the edge of the lawn and the driveway, making their presence known. When I turned 40, they knocked on the front door like a pair of proselytizers while I pretended I wasn't home.

When you lose a parent as a child, time seems to stop at that age that the parent's life did - because, in a sense, it did. It goes on, of course. Of course it does. Graduations, weddings, births ... they all happen. But the parent is memorialized in the child's mind as being forever the age that he or she was at the time of the passing.

When I was a teenager, my dad died suddenly, unexpectedly. He was 44. As most things do when you're 16, that seemed (well, okay, I admit it now) kinda old.

It's only been in the last decade or so - and especially in the last few months with The Husband having thyroid cancer at 43, and now on my birthday today as I turn into a pumpkin at 44 - that I've come to realize how very young my father was. How much living he had left to do. How much he missed and still is missed.

But I've also come to believe and realize that, as much as we sometimes push and prod and wish otherwise, these life mysteries are not exclusively ours for the questioning.

On my dad's 44th birthday, he had 4 months left to live. Four goddamn months. None of us had a clue. There was no cancer waiting to strike, no accident down the street, no being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Had he known, I doubt he would have lived his life any differently; he would have still gone to work at the Center City Philadelphia engineering firm every single day; he still would have fertilized the lawn; he still would have gotten up at 3 a.m. to don a volunteer fireman's uniform; he still would have agreed to be an usher at church.

He wasn't about grandiose gestures or about carpe diem. He lived his simple life. He just was.

What there wasn't on his 44th birthday was dread, no fatalism. Had we known, had things been different, maybe his outlook would have been different. We speculate, of course, as you do.

So, being the same age now as he was then, I could greet this birthday with a sense of doom, counting down the weeks and months of this 44th year until the precise day when I am officially older than my dad. (Believe me, I've calculated the exact day it will happen.)  It would be easy to do in the face of the year gone by, the unemployment and the cancer in its wake.

Or?

I could choose to live this 44th year like I was dying.

He said
"I was in my early forties
With a lot of life before me
And a moment came that stopped me on a dime
I spent most of the next days
Looking at the x-rays
Talkin' 'bout the options
And talkin' 'bout sweet time"
I asked him
"When it sank in 
That this might really be the real end
How's it hit you
When you get that kind of news?
Man, what'd you do?"

He said
"I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Blue Manchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying"
And he said
"Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying"

He said
"I was finally the husband
That most of the time I wasn't
And I became a friend a friend would like to have
And all of a sudden going fishin'
Wasn't such an imposition
And I went three times that year I lost my dad
I finally read the Good Book, and I
Took a good, long, hard look
At what I'd do if I could do it all again
And then

I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Blue Manchu
And I loved deeper 
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying"
And he said
"Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying
Like tomorrow was a gift
And you've got eternity
To think about
What you'd do with it
What could you do with it
What did I do with it?
What would I do with it?

Skydiving
I went Rocky mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Blue Manchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I watched an eagle as it was flying"
And he said
"Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying
To live like you were dying
To live like you were dying"

"Live Like You Were Dying" ~ sung by Tim McGraw



I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

photo and blog post copyright 2013, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

6 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Beautiful.

Happy Birthday to you. I'm glad I know you.

Sue Jackson said...

Great photo...and a great song and sentiment, too.

I wish you a very happy birthday and a wonderful year to come...and many more after that.

Sue

Book By Book

IMOK said...

Many years later, I am still sorry for your loss.

The ticking that you hear is the beating of your heart. Happy 44th birthday and many more.

Melissa said...

Lovely, as always. This put a great big lump in my throat. I hope you had a wonderful birthday and wish for you that every day hereafter only gets better.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post!

Gail said...

Great post!