Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

I sometimes think the hardest part of being middle aged is coping with too much loss.  I’m not talking about the long and depressing list of the things we have learned to do without at this point of our lives:  good eyesight, a slim waistline, a dependable memory, the ability to eat rich foods right before bedtime and still sleep like a baby, etc.  I’m talking about the almost devastating sense of loss that comes from knowing far too many people who are no longer with us.

As a child, I was lucky enough not to lose any member of my family I was truly close to, and I was almost eighteen when my grandmother, whom I loved dearly, died. I can still remember how long it took before I could accept that I would never see her again, and how for a while after her death, it was almost physically painful to be in her house.  But that was just the beginning.  By my early thirties, all my relatives of my grandmother’s generation were gone, or at least the ones I actually knew.  And the year I turned fifty was the same year that my father died.

Easter at Jones'

I have reached the age where I have known too many people who are gone, whether they were family, friends, coworkers or even just casual acquaintances.  I know people my age who have lost both parents, who have lost their spouses, who have lost siblings, and worst of all, sometimes even their children.  I suppose I was naive about death, thinking that the pain of losing too many people who are important to you was something that didn’t happen until you were well and truly old, unless you lived in a war-torn country.  I didn’t realize that the process of loss begins much earlier for most people, even for those of us who have been fortunate to live relatively peaceful lives.

Sadly, losing people we love is just a natural part of life and we really have no choice in the matter.  But what I can choose is how I react to the loss.  I can choose to be sad and angry, and honestly, in the days, weeks or even months after someone I care about dies, sad and angry is exactly what I am, and it doesn’t particularly feel like a choice.  But after the initial grief passes, I can choose to be thankful for the time I had with the people I loved, and I can use my grief as a reminder of just how fragile and fleeting life really is.

I think the best response to the long and growing list we middle-agers have of loved ones who have died is to remember to treasure the time we have with the people who are still with us.  These days, I rarely have a phone call with my mother (who just turned 85) that doesn’t end with “love you.”  Several good friends and I routinely say the same thing, sometimes in person, sometimes in emails or texts, and they aren’t empty words.  We have been around long enough to know that we need to tell people how much we care about them.  We have figured out that we need to make time for each other, even when it’s not convenient, and to put aside the petty differences that seemed so important when we were young and thought we had all the time in the world.

I know I can’t change the fact that too many people I want in my life are now gone. But what I can do is make sure I appreciate all the people I care about who are still here, and to never forget just how fragile and precious life really is.

18 thoughts on “Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

  1. Nice post, Ann. It’s a tough time when there are more endings than beginnings but we can only do the best we can with those who are still in our physical lives. It’s a very strange time and though I try not to dwell on it too much, thoughts do creep in on occasion. Of course life does the same thing all too often. Stay well.

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    • Thank you! Sometimes it is hard to be in the “second half’ of our lives, where there are, as you so accurately put it, “more endings than there are beginnings.” We know how to handle a certain amount of loss, but the older we get, the more the losses pile up! The only good thing to come out of it is how much more we appreciate what, and who, we still have.

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    • Thanks Ann for the reminder. I still clearly remember the last time I saw my father alive and I told Gary ” I don’t think I will see him alive again…..and I was right. But what I am struggling with now is how I manage exchanges with a dear friend who is dying. I always try to give him hugs and say…”love you”… but I just don’t know how much time we have left. If I knew that I would make a plan….but I don’t. And every time he goes to see new doctors or leaves town to join a “trial” , I get this sick feeling. I really don’t know how his wife does it.
      Enough. Thanks for the thoughts.
      Patty K

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  2. Patty, I am so sorry about your friend! It sounds as if you are handling the situation as best you can, and letting him know how much you care amid all the uncertainties of his illness. Hugs to you….


  3. Lovely post xo

    Your post brings to mind a quote from the movie Hope Floats: “Beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s what’s in the middle that counts. So when you find yourself at a beginning, just give hope a chance to float up. And it will.”


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