“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” – Steve Jobs
As a kid I would spend two weeks each summer with my grandparents on their farm. My job was to keep my grandfather company as he mowed the fields but I also drove the truck and trailer as an eight year old hauling stumps and cow carcasses to the “dump” which was a low spot in the woods of their 300 acre spread.
At noon my grandmother would ring a big bell mounted on a telephone pole which meant lunch was ready. Since I had been up since 6 am by noon I was ready for a break and hungry. When my grandfather heard that bell we stopped doing whatever it was we were doing and hauled-ass to the house, my grandmother was a tiny women but mean as a rattlesnake if you were late for anything.
At noon the local funeral home sponsored the reading of the daily obituaries on the radio. My grandmother listened to this program everyday which meant my grandfather and I had to eat in silence until it was over. Keep in mind this was a very small town so typically I would have to listen to a somber man speak about the “dearly departed” for 10 or 15 minutes.
One day the obituaries ran extra long. I wasn’t sure if someone special with an extra long obituary had died, or maybe they just had a lot of nieces and nephews, anyway it was 12:20 and the somber man with the monotone voice was still talking and I wasn’t. Mercifully, Mr. Monotone voice wrapped it up and the scary sounding organ music played which meant it was finally over. My grandmother looked at my grandfather and said “they are dropping like flies around here”. My grandfather, ever the profound man of few words said “Yup, we will too”.
When I think back, these two “old people” whom I loved dearly were in fact the age I am right now which is to say, not very old. As an eight year old I found my grandmother’s compulsive need to listen to this radio program everyday creepy but now I understand. It’s not that she was fascinated with death she was more interested in the life each person lived. In a small town she knew all these people, or knew someone related to the person and like many small towns, more old people made-up the population as the younger generation left to make their mark in the cities. Over time the obituary radio program would grow longer and longer with each passing year and sadly would eventually include both my beloved grandparents.
I lost another friend to cancer yesterday. His passing leaves not only a big space to fill for his family, but for his friends, co-workers and church. The space won’t stay vacant for long but today it is empty no longer filled by his larger than life personality and it is sad, I am sad. People seem to be “dropping like flies”, clearing out the old to make way for the new, ends and beginnings. Make the most of your middle.
“It isn’t the date on either end that counts, but how they used their dash for that dash between the dates represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.” -Unknown