Perhaps it is the overcast weather, or perhaps it is the colourful changing and falling leaves that let us know we are at the midpoint of the autumn season. Perhaps it is the macbre atmosphere that emerges as some people prepare for All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Perhaps it is simply that I am tired from having three nights in a row where I was awake past my usual bedtime. Whatever the perhaps… this weekend I feel my mortality.
Events have meant that I have been given many reasons to reflect and reminisce. On Wednesday I had to send a card to friends who celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary and who seem as much in love today as they did when they met in grade nine. I was not there when they met but they assure all who know them that for each of them “it was love at first sight.” The pictures that I was emailed by a daughter show them sitting regally in their two chairs decorated with flowers and ribbon–each with a walker to the outside of a respective chair so that they could hold hands during the festivities.
Yesterday, I ran into people I had not seen for about ten years and we caught up on children and siblings and mutual friends and acquaintances. We no longer ask about parents for we are at that stage where there is no point. Yesterday I also listened to the reminiscences of Julia Munro, MPP. The Honourable Ms. Munro is the logest sitting female MPP in Ontario history. Her entire political career followed a 24 year career as a high school history teacher. One of her purposes in speaking was to encourage women to enter into politics. As she spoke I could not help but think of someone who earlier in the week asked me why I had gone back to school “at your age”, what are you going to do with it. And the same person then asked, “Don’t you feel like you’ve stolen a place from some younger person?” (After checking into it I must say my guilt was relieved to learn that applications to my school for my programme had decreased in number.)
This past week also contained much discussion about releasing the documents pertaining to the JFK assassination. How many of the files would President Trump allow to be released? Why wouldn’t they all be released? What have the FBI and CIA got to hide? Is it a conspiracy? Was it a conspiracy? Do you remember where you were when you heard the news that the president had been shot?
Even though we were in Canada the impact the young president had on the world meant that our school had an assembly to honour Kennedy and there were both class and individual student assignments about his life.
Yes you read it right. I wrote “young president.” In those years 46 was considered young, especially to be an elected head of state. Now politicians who are 50 are considered “long in the tooth” and should perhaps think about making way for some young blood. Pundits and popoulists alike speak of the necessity for change and and for someone younger and more in tune with what society wants. (What happened in the American 2016 election was unusual.)
When Tom Petty died a couple of weeks ago, at the age 66, he was said to have died young. However, no one has said that about Richard Wilbur, Zuzana Ruzickova or Monte Hall at 96 nor Fats Domino, who died this week at the age of 89. In fact, when one of those names was read in the news one of the “on air” personalities stated I thought he was already dead. (I will leave it to your imagination to guess which one.) I began to wonder at what age is it too young to die and at what age are you doing the right thing.
My self-questioning became more intese yesterday. At the time I was sitting and listening to Ms Munro’s words of wisdom a friend of mine, who is my age, died. I learned of the death from another friend who sent me a message almost immediately. We three had been at university together in our undergraduate years. In most universities there are a few people who are together all the time, and we with others were part of one such group. Like many undergraduate friends we had drifted apart as our lives went in different directions but we had reconnected over the past several years thanks to social media.
Through social media I learned that my friend’s passion for theatre had continued, as a teacher of drama in high school and by working in a local semi-amateur theatre company. Square dancing, being a spouse, a parent, and looking forward to being a grandparent for the first time showed the vitality I had known in my schoolmate as a young adult had continued into middle age and retirement.
This death is sad for a close-knit family, for close friends and colleagues, and even old reacquaintances such as myself. What I am also noticing though, is this is the first time that someone from my cohort has died and I have not heard the phrase “too young.” Several have said “too soon” but the phrase “too young” has not been uttered.
This week I have again heard of the burden of an aging population, of the costs my generation will cause and the resources and infrastructure that will need to be developed to care for us. With all these things that have happened in these past few days I ask myself was the Psalmist right? “The days of our years are three score and ten;” (90:10 KJV) and as such I am approaching my alotted time. This weekend I am feeling my mortality.