The Death of My Aunt and Finding My Middle Place

In the last few weeks, my 68 year old Aunt passed away unexpectedly and a friend’s 64 year old mother has had two strokes. Both women seemed otherwise healthy and in both cases, these turns of events came out of the blue. I feel as though overnight, I’ve traveled into a new stage of my life – one in which the people my parents’ age are becoming frail and, in some cases, passing away.

It’s strange how life passes us by in phases. When I was young, the years were marked by birthday parties. After college and into my early thirties, weddings were the big events. Then came baby showers, followed quickly by divorces. All of a sudden – in the space of the last few weeks – it seems that funerals, nursing homes, and hospitals have taken on a new prominence.

A few years ago, I went to a reading by Author Kelly Corrigan, who had just written the book The Middle Place. Looking back, I have a new appreciation for the way she described that time in a woman’s life when you are parenting your children while also taking care of your parents.

I’m fortunate. My parents are still in great health and play a very active part in my life and the lives of my children. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would feel like to loose them, and I suppose I never thought I’d have to worry about such a thing until I was much older. After all, my kids are still young. At 4, my youngest son loves nothing more than spending time with his grandma and grandpa. I hope that he has many, many years left to do so!

I’ve thought a lot about my Aunt’s passing and the lessons I should take away from it. I really do believe that every experience in life – good and bad – can teach us something. It sounds trite (even to me as I write this!) but in this case, I walked away from her funeral feeling an urgency to live my life to the fullest and to spend more time with the people I love. I came home and happened to read Danny Brown’s blog post “Precious Time” and it was like he had captured exactly what I was feeling.

This really hit home after my Aunt’s wake when we went back to her house along with 40 to 50 out of town guests and family members. Many of the people there came from far away, and in many cases, I hadn’t seen them in years. Over a bite to eat, I was talking with another woman (whose name I unfortunately can’t recall) and relating how unfortunate it seems that in life, we get married and have everyone we love in one place, and the next time our loved ones all come together is typically when we die. Her response – that was simply not the case with my Aunt. To their credit , she and my Uncle really made a point of celebrating the special moments in their lives with family and friends. From their annual Labor Day Party to a fantastic 40th anniversary celebration, they knew how to entertain and made an effort to bring people together.

As I mourn my Aunt, I’ve come to realize the importance of taking the time each and every day to let the people I love know how I feel about them. But I’ve also realized it’s not enough to say the occasional “I love you” – maintaining relationships takes time and effort. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our day to day responsibilities while thinking we’ll make time for friends and family next week, next month, or next year.

This year, I’m looking forward to once again loading my four kids in our minivan and, along with my husband, taking a road trip up to my parents’ house in New Hampshire. We’ll spend a week hanging out in my parents’ house, playing in the yard, swimming in the local pool, playing mini golf and seeing movies. What in the past seemed like a run-of-the-mill visit to grandma and grandpa’s has now come to mean so much more. And pizza night at my mother-in-law’s is something I’ll appreciate in a new way, just like summer visits to the cousins’ houses and visits from family at the holidays. All of these occasions are really precious opportunities to form memories that will last a lifetime, regardless of how long, or short, our lives may be.

My efforts to make time for the important people in my life are still a work in progress. I’d love to know how others make this a priority. Tell me – how do you make time to see the people you love?

 

Work / Mommy / Work  ... Thoughts on work, motherhood, and the search for balance.

For more, check out my blog at www.workmommywork.com.

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