Bonus Time

One of Mom's favorite photos taken by my Dad for her music teaching publicity - I love the 1960s hairdo.

One of Mom's favorite photos taken by my Dad for her music teaching publicity - I love the 1960s hairdo.

My mother died when she was the age I am now. It’s a somewhat startling realization that what had seemed like a ripe old age is actually not.

When Mom died, I was 22. It was unexpected and quite dramatic much as she lived her life. One minute she was packing her suitcases for a planned trip to Mexico with my father and the next…well, it turned out the tingling in her arms was indeed the sign of a heart attack waiting to happen.

My mother was three months shy of her 60th birthday when she died. Everyone said she was too young to go. That was the one consistent thing we heard at the memorial service in our hometown.

“Your mother was so vibrantly alive,” said one family friend. “It’s just such a shock. She was too young to die.” 

Aren’t we all, really?

I’ve encountered a few peaceful souls who after nine, even ten, decades of life look forward to what’s next. They have seemed almost eager to experience the implied opportunity to meet up with parents and friends who preceded them in the journey to next. I hope that’s true.

Right now, however, I’m not one of those and I’ve realized in a very personal way how much more my mother had hoped to see in her life. 

She never knew her son or daughters-in-law. She never met her grandchildren. She never experienced family holidays with the progeny of her own children gathered around the table. She loved the concept of those types of gatherings despite the reality of the angst those preparations caused for her perfectionist self. 

There is no genetic reason to think that my lifespan would equal hers. My brother and I were adopted into our family, leaving our genetic background somewhat of a blank slate for our lifestyle choices and behaviors to fill in. 

I’ve recognized that in a few months I will have exceeded her time with us. And that has me looking at the years to come as bonus time.  A time to be relished, enjoyed as special, spent meaningfully with those I love, and most of all, for gratitude that time exists.