In Remembrance

One of the best things about reaching middle age is having friends that I have known for many decades.  These are the people that knew me when I was just a little kid wearing scuffed saddle oxfords, and have stayed in my life ever since.  We understand exactly where each other came from, because we were there, too.  Their parents were friends with our parents, and now, our kids are often friends with their kids.  They may be “just friends,” but our relationships have lasted so long and our families are so connected that I think of them more as close, personal relatives.

Thanksgiving in NorthfieldI have very good friends that I have met in recent years, but they can’t share the stories of the past the way these long-term, family friends can.  They can’t talk about the time my parents had the neighbors over for a backyard barbecue and it started to rain heavily.  Rather than risk losing his precious pork steaks, my father simply picked up the grill and ran in our back door and down the basement steps with it, leaving a trail of curse words and black smoke behind him.  Or the time when my husband and I had just moved to St. Louis and we all packed into my friend’s father’s van to head to Chicago for Thanksgiving at my parents house, never mind that it was a cargo van with no real seats in the back.  We even took our friend’s dog, who was the only one who seemed comfortable sitting on the floor for the six-hour trip.

But one of the worst things about middle age is losing so many of those life-long, family friends.  Tomorrow I’m going to a funeral for one of those family friends, one from my parent’s generation, who was the father of a very dear, life-long friend of mine.  He was someone I’ve known my whole life, a very smart man who told funny stories, who could make just about anything in his shop, and who gave my husband a part-time accounting job on the side at a time when we desperately needed the extra money.  He was a part of my past, and my family’s past, but now, like so many others, he is gone, and my heart aches for his grieving family.

I do know that as I age, everyone else in my life is aging as well.  I mourned when my beloved grandparents and great aunts and uncles grew old and died, and now we are losing my parents’ generation too, one by one.  Between my husband and I, we have only one parent left.  I understand that this is just the natural progression of life, and that my generation’s turn will come soon enough.  But I’m not going to lie; sometimes it makes very very, very sad.

It’s not that I want to live in the past, or am yearning for a “better time.”   I’m not.  It’s just that it’s hard to lose so many people who I loved or cared about, and that with each loss, there is one less person to “remember when,” one less person who shares my past, one less person who knows not only who I am now, but who I was then.  It’s one more reminder that time is moving relentlessly forward, and that life is, and always has been, both precious and fragile.

15 thoughts on “In Remembrance

  1. Yes Ann, the older we get, the more we realize about how life can make the passing of a loved one, a friend, co-worker, or just someone you see or hear from a distant, we shed a tear and our heart breaks. We learn to accept these “Chapters of Life”(As I call them ) , no matter how painful they can be.

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  2. Poignant post, Ann. Strange as it sounds, when I lost my parents, I felt like an orphan. Even though my brother is still with me and we share our past, losing your parents is a strange feeling. Losing those people from your past who knew you when and who formed much of who you are today is something that’s difficult to put into words. It’s more a feeling of loss that only a handful of people understand. Aunts and uncles and grandparents who celebrated special occasions with you, friends and their parents, they are all part of a time that’s gone. So as they saying goes, we can choose to be sad that it’s over or happy that these people and memories will be with us forever. Still…it’s hard.

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    • I think losing both parents is very hard, even when we have siblings, because there is no other relationship exactly like the one between a parent and a child. I really struggled to write this post, so I’m glad to know that you understood what I meant about losing a piece of our past with each death. Still, I like what you said about choosing to be happy that we had these people in our lives and that we will always have our memories. You always have a good perspective to offer…thanks for that!

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  3. And, this was so very poignant. I remember when my dad died. I felt like part of my past had been erased. Most of my parents friends are gone now, because they were older than your parents. There is a slight sadness that persists with me about that today. But, as you say, it is part of life.

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  4. I guess we all go through the same great stages in life, and some of them are nicer than others. There was a time when most of the people I knew were getting married. Then they were having children. After that their parents began to pass away one by one. At some point, it will be my generation who begins passing away. It is sad, but it’s a part of life and possibly it is the fleeting nature of our existence that gives it meaning and value.

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    • Yes, sometimes it is sad, and I guess I was feeling it a bit more than usual yesterday. But you are so right that knowing that all of our relationships, and even our own existence is fleeting, makes us value it all the more. Thats one of the things I love about reading the comments…they offer good perspectives and ideas that are helpful and comforting. Thanks for that!

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  5. My heart is with you Ann ❤ Be with your grief as it is the other side of joy. I'm learning this… This blog comes at a timely moment (again you do it for me) as I'm reading a wonderful book: "The Wild Edge Of Sorrow: Rituals Of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief" by Frances Weller. Maybe it would help…
    I'm working through years of built up grief and current grief in this world of ours…. ❤

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  6. I remember seeing a quote in a hundred-year-old issue of Ladies Home Journal that said something to the effect that we needed to keep reaching out to people as we age to keep the hearth fires warm. For some reason that resonated with me–and I often wonder if I’m doing enough to keep them warm.

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    • I like that quote! It is important to keep reaching out, and I think we all wonder if we are doing a good job at that. There is still a lot of wisdom in those old books and magazines. Whenever I go to estate sales, I always see if there are old magazines to buy. I love to read them and see what the “pop culture” of the time was.


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