Sorry I haven’t posting to the blog over the last week. I have been dealing with a number of issues, including a loss that has hit my wife (who has commented here previously as Liz) and myself particularly hard. This past weekend, at around five in the morning on Saturday, Liz’s father died after a long decline due to PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy) at the age of seventy three.
Back when I first started writing this blog, I got news that my grandmother had passed away. In her case it was a matter of age; she’d lived to be hundred and then one day that was it. At the time I was just getting starting writing online, so I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it just yet. If you’ll bear with me, I’d like to fix that now.
Both my grandmother and my father-in-law lived lives in the service of others. My grandmother as a teacher with a life-long commitment to charity work through the Kidney Foundation of Canada. Liz’s father was also an educator and worked closely as a civilian with the RCMP and police forces throughout North America. They both lived lives of moderation. Eating well, staying active, drinking in moderation. They both raised wonderful kids. They were both kind and generous.
Both of them lived lives that should have lasted past one hundred, but only one of them that lucky.
In my grandmother’s case, it was over quickly. There was a phone call saying she hadn’t woken up and the staff at the rest home had taken her to the hospital. A few days later, she was gone. I was on course at St Jean (a base outside of Montreal) so there was no way I could travel, but my father was able to, and he was there by her bedside at the end.
Liz’s father was taken from us over a course of years as a terrible disease slowly stole his mobility and his faculties. In his case the end came (somewhat) predictably, and a good part of the family were able to gather for his final hours. For what it was worth, he died in his own home and he was cared for right until the end.
Palliative nurses and anyone else who work in the ‘end of life’ field of care are saints. Period.
For me at least, the common thread through both these events was a sense of helplessness and a sense of regret. The eventual outcome was inevitable but I wish there was something I could have done to make things better…for someone…somehow. I wish I’d written more often to my grandmother. I wish I’d visited my father-in-law more often as he declined. One of the biggest reliefs this past came when I was asked to go out to get food. I was working for part of the weekend, but the rest of the time I found myself anxiously looking for things to do. Like clean the apartment or put winter tires on the cars.
I don’t have a grand philosophical statement to make here. Neither myself or Liz are religious. Basically, there’s two things I want to say here: Live well, because life isn’t fair. Live the kind of life that, if you make it to a hundred people will say it was well-deserved, and if you don’t then people will regret the loss. The second is that service to others isn’t just an obligation, but an opportunity. In an unfair life any kindness you can show, any action you can take that might tip the scale in the direction of human happiness is righteous. Whatever the size or scale, it’s things like this that will make life better, both for you and the person you’re helping.
Here’s to the memory to two good and kind people, who lived lives of simple, quiet righteousness. And here’s to all the rest of us, may we follow their example in our own lives.