This past weekend, our family experienced its closest loss with the passing of Grandpa Bobby. Not unlike many people, I don’t handle death very well. I know, I know…it happens to everyone eventually but still. I’m not a big fan of viewings. I guess in my head, I never want to remember someone the way I see them last. I want to remember them as I remember them. Hopefully, this would be mostly pleasant memories. In the case of Bobby, there are plenty of things that I will remember about him. I’ll always remember the first time I met he and my mother-in-law, way back when Stephanie and I first started dating. I’ll always remember his fondness for everything science fiction. I’ll always remember that anytime I asked him how he was doing, he would always respond with, “Oh…fair to middlin’.” He was a character, for sure, and he had his impact on our lives and for that I am grateful. Seeing him in the casket in his military uniform, wearing the glasses he’s always worn since I’ve known him, I couldn’t help but feel loss. He was nearing his 70th birthday. And then it hit me…he was only 26 years older than me.
And now…I’m starting to hyperventilate a little bit.
I realize that 26 years is a long time. In 26 years time, my son will be 36, my daughter 34. They will have passed their 20’s and I would hope that they will be well on their way to having their own families. In 26 years, there will be God only knows how much more advances in technology. In 26 years, hopefully we’ll have figured out a way to balance the national budget, how to balance fossil fuels with solar energy and maybe…just maybe…we will have found a cure for cancer. The future is unlimited! Except…it’s not.
26 years is less than 30 years. And lately, the years have been FLYING by. 30 years ago I was in 8th grade! Playing basketball every night with my buddies. Going to movies. Not a care in the world. 30 years ago seems like forever! 26 years in the future seems closer somehow.
At any given time, it could be MY time. Or YOUR time. Or one of our loved ones. Or one of our pets. Or a neighbor. Granted, you can’t think about it ALL the time or else you’ll go crazy, living your life in fear and not really living at all however…nothing makes you think of death more than a funeral and so…here I am. Grandpa Bobby was 26 years older than me. And now he’s gone. And that scares the hell outta me.
When I stop to think about how long 26 years is, I do the math. 26 years ago I was 18. I was still living at home, driving a beat up Volkswagen Bug and going to freshman college classes I didn’t really need for the occupation I would eventually have. 26 years ago I would spend my summers working in Zanesville, hanging out with my best friend, listening to Pearl Jam or Nirvana, not really thinking too much about where I’d be in 26 years. Now…I’m here. And I have to think…in 26 MORE years, I could NOT be here anymore. I don’t like thinking about it but, at some point, I guess you have to. You have to entertain the thought that you MIGHT not be here to see your 70th birthday. When I think of 70, I think how I doubted I would ever grow so old to see that birthday. Now…it really doesn’t seem that far away.
Now, obviously 70 isn’t the end all date. My Dad is 74 and he’s still kicking my butt at golf. My Mom is…well…not 74…but she’s still rockin’ the Bingo every Wednesday and enjoys long morning walks and playing the piano at random times during the afternoon. So to say 70 is the finish line is probably not for everyone. But you get my drift…right? I mean, with every funeral you attend, you HAVE to think about it. And I don’t like thinking about it. Mortality is a bitch. I don’t wanna have to get all philosophical unless I absolutely HAVE to. And usually I’m too busy to worry about it. But now here I am…blathering on and not even sure if this is making any sense but I’m feeling a little sense of dread and so…BLAH BLAH BLAH.
At Bobby’s funeral the other day, the minister at the funeral home talked about being prepared. He was saying that if you accept The Lord as your Savior, you will be prepared for the afterlife and your ascension into heaven will be a sweet testament to your life here on Earth. THAT is some pretty heavy stuff for a Saturday afternoon…but as I listened to his message I had to think about my life and where I am, 26 years away from the same age of the death of my father-in-law. I want to be prepared for what’s next but can you REALLY say you can EVER be prepared? I dunno.
Religious pundits will say you can be. And I wish I could say that religion has brought me that sense of clarity. But I’m not clear about it. I imagine as with most things in life, I want to be assured that there is something after. But who knows? It’s not a given. I WANT to believe. But there is that part of me that doesn’t. I can’t help it. It’s the scientific side of me that says that once it’s done, it’s done. There is a scene in a science fiction movie called “Blade Runner” that speaks to me about death. In it, a synthetic human (played by Rutger Hauer) is nearing his termination date. As he stands in the pouring rain, he reminisces about places he’s been, things he has seen, and he wishes for more time. It’s a lot like that, I have to imagine. That moment when you sense the end is near and all you can do is hope that there is more, whether it is here on Earth, or somewhere we don’t even know. It’s scary…and yet somewhat enthralling all at the same time. We WANT to know…don’t we? In some part of our being we ALL want to know…what is after this?
I can’t even begin to venture. These topics are for people much more philosophical than I. And yet, I wonder. And I can’t say that I “fear” it…I just don’t want to rush it. Ya know what I mean? Anyway…all I can think about since Friday’s events is…am I prepared? Am I ready?
Honestly? I don’t think so. I have so much more living to do. And so…I guess I better get to it.
“Maybe in those last moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life – anybody’s life; my life. All he’d wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die.” – Deckard (Harrison Ford’s character in “Blade Runner”)