’m not terribly fond of Christmas letters, which sometimes resemble those Facebook entries in which people tell you all the details of their day, including every morsel they ingested. But there was one letter I always looked forward to receiving. It was from my friend Peter, my colleague at the continuing medical education company that was my last job before retirement. Technically, I was Peter’s “boss,” a word I loathed, as I really believed in a collaborative work environment. But with Peter, it was irrelevant: he needed no bossing. Though his position was medical editor, he possessed two masters degrees and a PhD. It was our/my great good fortune that he wound up in that office. He was brilliant.
I’ve found, on occasion, that some of the most life-affirming experiences I’ve had have occurred at a funeral or memorial service for someone whose life has been well-lived. I had that honor today (Sunday), attending a memorial for a 92-year-old woman whose friends’ recollections often included the phrase “Renaissance woman.”
When the world is too much with us—as it occasionally is for me lately—we often turn to nostalgia. My fellow blogger JP recently wrote a delightful post about a childhood “Freeze” moment: while playing a piece in a piano recital, he lost his place, couldn’t find it, recovered as best he could, and somehow lived through the humiliation. I guess we all have “Freeze” moments when we wish we could turn back the clock and get a do-over. JP’s post reminded me of mine, which occurred when I was a high school senior. My current self finds all this quite amusing, but those decades ago, my sensibilities were different.
"The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience." --------Eleanor Roosevelt A mini-celebratory brunch is in order: the doctor reported both heart and aorta are sound. “We’ll take you out,” we say. “You’ll come here,” she insists. “The best bagels, fresh eggs, delicious fruit, plus quiet and lots of room.” We relent. Four years ago, the collapse—after a symphony hall concert. She attended concerts often—multiple subscriptions, with friends and alone. And the art galleries, the library lectures, the trice-weekly swims, the scheduled trip to Macchu Picchu… That evening, she was alone.
NOTE: Gazing at a lovely picture of a friend’s daughter with her two kids--a newborn and a toddler--I found myself advising her, in full cliche: “Enjoy every minute of this time; it goes so fast!” That made me wistful about my own daughters’ younger years. Even though I realized then the flight of time, it still slipped past me far too quickly. So I dug out a poem I wrote decades ago, which was published in a local anthology. Here ’tis: