On this day I learned of someone I knew whose death came from natural causes. I found a moment to pause and assess things as they are. It stirs my thinking along the line of personal mortality and what does life mean.
The famous ancient Greek Physician Hippocrates (460 – c. 370 BC) said; “Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience deceptive, judgment difficult.”
We hear the phrase life is short and live every moment, but it’s not quite that simple. Our daily rhythms often assume life continues without pause.
I used to have long conversations with my maternal grandmother, born in the 1880’s and already comparatively old when I began walking and talking. These talks became more interesting as I entered my teenage years because I was seeing the world from a completely different perspective. On several occasions I entered the darkened living room and briefly started a conversation. I often had to start it or inject comments, in order to facilitate what followed.
She liked to sit in the dark in the evening as it was familiar. If you consider the first 40 years or so of her life were run off of natural light, aided only by fuel lamps when necessary, it’s easy to understand why the idea of using electric light for anything other than cooking, sewing or reading seemed unnecessary. In addition to that, having lived under very frugal conditions, electricity was a precious commodity to be used only when required.
Sitting in a chair across from her in the dark was my equivalent of what the Beatles did when they went to India to seek an ascetic. Here was a woman who immigrated, traveled across country in a wagon pulled by oxen, worked as a cook in a lumber camp and birthed / raised 8 of her 9 children until they were an adult.
Among the many things I gained from her was her explanation of age. Some of this are my own words.
- When young, you’re like a wealthy person. You have many years to spend and think they will go on indefinitely.
- As you age, the years go by faster. The older you become, the faster they seem. Think of this as basic math. When you’re 10 years old, 1 year is 1/10 of your entire life. When you’re 80, 1 year is a smaller portion of your life.
- To you summer is vacation, for me it’s time to work the soil and grow a garden.
- Fall is a reminder of harvesting what you planted.
- Winter is a dormant season where all things that once grew outside are shriveled and laying in the field.
- Spring is a time of renewal and an opportunity to begin a new.
With those words I found myself reflecting on things which would still have to be learned in finer detail.
Today is another one of those reminders. Life is short and no matter how much time you think you have, find the spring and summer seasons in your life. The harvest and winter come all too soon.
Spread a contagion; commit random acts of kindness.