Monday, April 24, 2006

This mortal coil

I lost a much beloved cousin recently (not the reason for my recent hiatus from the Fray). My Dad's siblings were close to him in age and they all married and started families within roughly the same decade, so my cousins on his side of the family are all relatively close in age as well. As it happens I'm one of the oldest and the cousin we lost was the youngest. We were also relatively close geographically during our childhood, at least insofar as we were close enough to get together most every year for summer and Christmas vacations. All this added up to our being close emotionally as well. We all have similar interests, and we all rebelled against our families in the same ways, and we all married and started families within roughly the same decade… all except the youngest.

She was the real rebel. Yes, she eventually got married but only because she found a companion whose spirit was as free as her own. They never had children. Though I have never lost touch with my cousins, all of whom I love dearly, the pressures and realities of everyday life have meant that we eventually had to forego our annual reunions. The difficulty of coordinating travel with all those babies, and then all those children, and now all those teenagers… well, we've only been able to get together a few times in the last decade, and never with all of us present as in the old days. And even those few times were mostly coordinated by that youngest cousin, constantly conspiring to get us all in roughly the same part of the country at roughly the same time of year. She was an activist, in many ways the driving force that kept us in touch and got us to break out of the routine and get together at least occasionally.

I find myself conflicted still by her death even though it happened last year. She was a walking contradiction. Life had dealt her the toughest hand of any of us: she was ill for more than the latter half of her too few years. Her last six months were painful, marked by the slow inevitable failure of her organs, so when the end came it was as much a blessing as it was a curse. But she was ironically the happiest and the fittest of us in that she was constantly active, packing more into her life in a month than the rest of us lived in a year. She hiked and biked and traveled. She met people and had fun and never went more than a short while without trying new things. She attacked life with never-ending vigor. It wasn't the nearness of her mortality that drove her. She was misdiagnosed for years and it wasn't until very near the end that her impending death was even a blip on the radar. It was just that she knew how to live life. She was a participant in the truest sense of the word.

I am an agnostic in the very literal sense that "I am without knowledge" of God. (Yes, Schad, I know you regard agnosticism as cowardice, but atheism is as much an expression of faith as explicit belief in an active God and I find myself too analytical and evidence driven to have faith one way or the other). I believe that we're still on the road to spiritual discovery and the jury's still out on the real truth. There are intriguing hints here and there that there's more to human consciousness than we know. But I don't think she went on to another place. I think we end when we die. But I'm not prepared to rule anything out because we're still running the procedure on that particular science fair experiment. It's nice to think about her continuing on in some more active way than just the memories of those who knew and loved her, but I won't be a bit surprised to find out the opposite when I move on.

And so my thoughts and feelings around her death take on a more immediate color. I want her passing to be meaningful to me. I want it to shock me out of inaction. The sad part is that she will probably have lived more in her abbreviated tenure than I even if I follow my grandmother into my nineties…

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an off hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the english way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say

- Time, Pink Floyd
Posted by .
To reply to this post, click HERE. Requires Microsoft Passport.
Tags: | | | | | | |