They took my Aunt Theresa off life support yesterday. She had a good time on her last day, with reason to be very proud of her granddaughter, and died in the arms of a loved one. It was time to let go of the shell, and her family made the right decision. She is no longer there. At some point today or tomorrow her body will stop breathing, and this part of her journey will officially be over. The details of her departure don’t matter.
What does matter are the lessons to be learned. Perhaps most important is her example of living life to the fullest for as long as you can. Even in her later years, she and her friends traveled all over the world, to every continent — including Antarctica — and more countries than I can count. They weren’t rich, but they saved and planned ahead for both their retirements and their ongoing passions. They lived life as it came, not as some pie in the sky that would happen “someday.” Theresa didn’t just wait around for life to be OK — for the “right time” to do stuff. She went out and did stuff.
The other lesson, as I wrote to a beloved niece a few minutes ago, is that you never, ever know. My niece found that out many years ago when her youngest sister was killed in an accident, on a road she’d driven many times. If I recall correctly, she was eighteen. Her remaining 5 siblings grew up in a hurry. They have all gone on to live their lives, as have their kids. They know about tomorrows.
The family members who chose not to attend a reunion at which Theresa would have been present because it was “too far” may have learned something, too. That was only three weeks ago. Instead, the reunion was canceled for lack of interest, and may or may not happen in the future. Likewise, they may or may not care that they could have seen her one last time. It probably doesn’t matter. Still, one hates to see a lesson wasted — especially one that is repeatable if one isn’t careful.
My own dear personal brother, father of the niece mentioned above, was nearly killed in a motorcycle accident last month. He’s mostly OK, and has stopped riding bikes. He’s going today to look at a turbocharged sports car that he’s settled on, four wheels to replace the two of the Burgman 650 that — with the help of a deceased pit bull — nearly killed him. He learned a valuable lesson, but he’s still planning on living! He devoted 30 years to caring for a sick partner, lost her in his mid-60’s, and at age 76 he’s still movin’ on. At some point, he learned that lesson, too.
I’ve been thinking about The Lessons myself. Fences to be mended. Bridges to be rebuilt that should never have been burned. Fun to be had. People to be loved and cherished, while I still can. Life is way too important to take seriously. It’s a one-way street, and we’ll never get off of it alive, but like the fellow who “took the road less traveled by,” the choice of path is ours.
Thanks, Aunt Teeta. Thanks for everything.