First, let’s start with the good thoughts.
It was so good to see my parents at the airport.
Because of the pandemic, I hadn’t seen them in almost two years.
They looked a bit older, but then again, I look a bit older.
That doesn’t phase me anymore.
I’ve thought a lot about death since having heart surgery in 2012, and the idea of it doesn’t hold the weight it did when I was a kid.
If anything, it’s made every moment with a family a priceless one.
I don’t care if people look older–I just love the feeling of being in the familiar presence of the people I love.
Because that’s what it is: a presence.
A sense of belonging.
A comfortable feeling that will never go away.
That kind of presence can be created anywhere.
I now feel it with my wife, and I feel it with the friends I’ve stayed in touch with the longest.
My wife once told me when we were first dating that it was so nice to find someone that she just could just sit next to on long car rides and not feel like she had to talk.
She said that it was nice to sit in silence without feeling awkward at all.
I agree with that.
I think that’s another way to define “love.”
So it’s strange that I’m now preparing to speak at a funeral service for someone who my relatives are saying they can’t think of anything positive to say.
Is that love as well?
Or is it a forced attachment to something bigger than yourself?
And is that the same thing the more you zoom out and see the big picture?
My grandma was absolutely miserable in the later years of her life, but I know she did good things as well.
I’ve seen pictures of her smiling as a little girl while also remembering her obsession with telling stories about how mean her mother was to her.
These complaints from my grandma were common.
In fact, she complained and protested and demanded and generally made others feel small during the last decade of her life.
But she also sent me birthday cards with beautiful handwriting every single year of my life until the dementia and mental illness started to take over.
She was my family, and she always will be.
But she will no longer visit the house I grew up in, and soon I won’t either.
My parents are thinking about selling the home soon to downsize, and what was once such an indomitable presence in my life will be no more.
And isn’t that true about life in general?
People are there until they aren’t.
Places are immensely important, until they’re not.
The only constant is the presence you carry through it all, and even the nature of that very presence can change.
I think this is all part of living and dying, which, in the end, I believe are the same thing.
I had a completely different idea for this newsletter today.
But then I decided to stop tossing and turning in my childhood room and just get up and write this.
I’m glad I did.