Death has really been getting up in my face, ever since that day in March
last year. I suspect death is getting up in most of my friends' faces,
at least the ones who are around my age. Why didn't the middle-aged
people TELL us these things, back when we were pompous young
adults full of energy, full of alcohol, ideas and confidence, full of
ourselves? (Well, maybe THAT's why!)
This is my newest discovery about middle age. It's worse than
the aching knees and the accidental flatulence. It's even worse than
my breasts' new love interest (gravity). It's that people are dying. Yes,
I know they're dying all the time everywhere, but somehow in
middle age it really does seem, to borrow a phrase from paragraph one,
up in my face.
I think it's because most of the people we know who are dying are in
their seventies or eighties. That's a niceish age to go, after having lived
through many of life's seasons - but this is not about them, it's about us,
the middle-agers left behind, and what it means to us. Our childhood
heroes are dying. The names we grew up with. Elizabeth Taylor.
Ray Bradbury. Rajesh Khanna. Daddy.
It goes beyond losing the person. It's also losing what they stood for:
our childhood, our dreams and aspirations, the background music for
so much of our adolescent drama. They were the foundations upon
which we grew, as we turned into the us we are today. It's scary. It tells
us that something is over. It tells us what is coming. It doesn't tell us
how to handle it, though. That's what our childhood heroes were for.
But to every thing a season, as someone said in a book I once read.
And then someone else took those words and turned them into a song,
and added the refrain, "Turn, turn, turn." It makes sense when I think
of winters and springs, of harvests and sowing. Here I am, somewhere
between summer and autumn. I need to stop looking ahead at the winter
to come, and focus instead on the springs that will follow - springs
that will depend on my fallen leaves and dried seeds and my rested,
restored, turned-over earth.
I need to keep reminding myself that somewhere there are children
for whom I could be the hero mourned one day, and that the best way
to honour my dead is to be for someone new, what my old heroes were for me.