Remembrance Day July 15 2045
A man about 70 years old is sitting in a backyard chatting with his eight year old granddaughter as their family is preparing for other family members to arrive.
Grandpa, did we celebrate Remembrance Day when you were my age?
No, not when I was your age. I was closer to your mom and dad’s age. This day has only been a national holiday for a little over twenty years, w,ell before you were born.
Mom and Dad say we get together because of a bad virus that spread all over the world and we remember so we don’t forget. Why do we want to remember a virus that got lots of people sick?
Well, it’s not so much the virus we remember but those who were most affected by it. We remember the people who didn’t get better and the people who helped us get through that time.
You mean like doctors and nurses?
Yes, like doctors and nurses but so many more who risked their own health so that others would remain safe. People like first responders, police officers, firefighters, and those in the military. There were so many.
They’re always the heroes, right?
Yes, they are, but there were many other people who put their own health at risk so the rest of us could live our lives safely at home. Before that time, we never gave much thought to truck drivers or people who worked in food stores as heroes, but those drivers transported food to the stores, even though it was risky. And the people who worked at those stores showed up everyday so that the rest of us were able to purchase food.
Teachers made sure their students continued to learn, people who worked in pharmacies made sure people continued to get their medicine, restaurants stayed open so that some people could order food if they couldn’t get to the grocery stores. Maintenance people made sure the hospitals stayed clean and those who worked in banks kept coming in so people could get money if they needed it. I’ve probably not mentioned nearly as many heroes as there were during that time.
So that’s what today is about?
Partly, yes. We want to remember all those who lost someone and we want to give thanks to those who helped us get through that period of time. We don’t ever want to forget any of them.
Do all countries celebrate this day?
Well, a few other countries remember this pandemic in their own way, but they don’t call it Remembrance Day since that name means something different for other countries.
Mom and Dad said things changed after the virus. Did they change a lot?
For many, yes. Others just went back to the same routine and the life they lived before this happened.
What kind of things changed?
Well, you know we lost our way of life for a while; our freedom to go where we wanted when we wanted. To see and hug the people we love the most. You really don’t know how much you miss something until it’s been taken away from you. Then you realize you miss it even more than you could have imagined.
People used to live very busy lives. Many families never had dinner together, were pulled in different directions and missed family celebrations or birthdays, because of commitments they thought were important.
People really missed birthday parties and celebrations?
Sadly, yes. But a strange thing happened after this was over. Some people came to understand what was really important in life. That you can’t get some days back. There’s only one of them and when you miss it, it’s gone forever. Just like people. Unfortunately, some people learned that the hard way.
So people changed?
Like I said ,some did. But not all. You see, during that time you really couldn’t go anywhere and families were forced to spend a lot of time together. So instead of rushing around with other commitments, they went for walks, played games, ate together, talked a lot more, went for bike rides, read books, watched movies, cooked meals together and just hung out. They had time to make time for each other. Sometimes they got on each others nerves, but when it was over and they were able to do the things they did before, some realized they would miss what they had during the time they were forced to stay home. They decided they wanted more of their down time and less of the craziness they had before. So they changed the way they lived their lives. They made compromises and adjustments so they could have the best of both worlds. They realized it was easy to do if they just focused on what was most important to them.
But like I said, not everyone felt them same way.
Did our family change?
Eventually yes, but it took a little time, which was probably true of most people.
Mom and Dad said people who used to work in offices had to go in everyday. That must have been weird for kids. I couldn’t imagine not having mom or dad home almost everyday.
Well, it wasn’t weird before the virus. In fact, that was pretty standard. But two things happened. People realized they could work just as efficiently from home and be able to spend more time with their families. And companies realized if they allowed that to happen without it affecting their business their employees would be happier and they could cut down on the amount of office space they needed and save some money on rent in the process. So there was a compromise of sorts. Some people began working in the office one to three days a week on rotating shifts. Not all jobs could do that, of course, but quite a bit more than people realized just a few months earlier.
So the virus wasn’t all bad?
Well, for some it was terrible. Many people lost family members and some nurses and doctors had a tough time healing after what they experienced. But people also became kinder to one another. If you went for a walk during that time, people who were strangers would wave to you and ask if everyone was okay. If someone needed help, they received it. People sang, and danced, told jokes, made crazy videos and raised money for those who were less fortunate and needed support.
So to answer your question, there was some good that came out of something that was bad.
That happens a lot doesn’t it.
Yes, that happens a lot, if we pay attention and just look hard enough.
For several minutes, the little girl said nothing, looking past the people who started to arrive. Finally, she asked her grandfather if he thought a virus like that could ever happen again.
He hesitated before answering, putting his arm around her and holding her close.
It’s possible, I suppose, though we’re much better prepared in case it ever happens again. But if that period of time taught us anything, it was to live in the moment and not worry so much about tomorrow. And our moment is coming through the door as we speak. Your cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents are all here. How about we go remember and celebrate this day with them.
The little girl looked up at her grandfather and smiled. I think I’m going to give them all big hugs so they know how much I love them.
The grandfather pulled the little girl close, hugged her tightly and whispered softly in her ear.
I think that’s a great idea.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard this but even if you have it’s worth listening to their music and voices again. Such talent with these young people. Music has always been a greater healer.
So it’s been a couple of days since I’ve last been here. What, you think it’s been more than a couple of days? Really? Maybe you’re right. I’ll have to count on my fingers to check. Sometimes life gets in the way or I get distracted.
My mother in law passed away this past fall at the age of 93 and so we spent the rest of the year going through her home and preparing it for sale. Not an easy task. My father in law passed away twenty-six years ago and so she’s lived in this home for the last sixty years. Up until recently she was able to take care of herself but the last year and a half required some help. Her home was always meticulous, even at the very end. The only problem was, she never threw anything away. I think that’s somewhat common for that generation, who came from a time when everything had value. Nothing was wasted or discarded needlessly. Nothing had a shelf life. It’s something I understand but it didn’t make the process any easier.
We sometimes didn’t know, going through her belongings, what had real value, sentimental or otherwise. Did it have special meaning to her, was it worth something, or was it an item that was given away for free at gas stations back in the day. Some things were obvious, some not so much. And what about the photos of people from so long ago that we didn’t recognize. Did the people in the photo hold special meaning to her? Did they remind her of a special time? What do we do with them now?
And here’s where deconstructing a life comes into the conversation. Here are the decisions we had to make, whether they seem logical or not. We kept quite a few things, as did our children, who wanted remembrances of their grandmother. We donated quite a bit to various charities. We sold a few things. And unfortunately, we ended up tossing some things. For some reason, the photos were sometimes the toughest decisions to make. It seems sacrilegious to throw them out but why keep photos of people we don’t know, and if we do keep them, you just leave it for the next person to deal with when we’re gone.
The whole thing was just so surreal. I’ve known my wife since third grade and have been going to that house for over fifty years. I spent more time there over the years than in the home I grew up in. I knew every corner and almost every story. To take it apart seemed like a violation of her life. Every day another piece was gone, until nothing remained but the shell. Until the home became a house. A property to be sold.
But it seemed even more than that and I’m not sure it’s easily explained. It’s like someone who existed a short time ago, no longer does. Her “stuff” is gone. I understand about the memories we”ll have to hold onto and the items we have to remind us of her life, but there is a big difference between the body and the soul of a person. In certain homes, filled with years of love and memories, I believe the same holds true. Strip away what made it special, and the deconstruction is complete. Emptying that home was like emptying a life. It’s a strange feeling and I’m sure many of you have gone through similar moments over time.
When we were done, I joked with my wife about what our children may think or say when their time comes to do the same thing. What questions they’ll have that may remain unanswered. What photos they’ll find and wonder who those people were. What decisions they’ll have to make and if sentimentality or practicality will be the deciding factor. Probably a little of both.
I just know that a few days after we finished up we started going through our own home. If we can make it a bit easier for our children when the time comes, all the better. I just don’t want to make it too easy. After all, what fun is life without leaving some mystery and unanswered questions about your parents. I might even plant a few things around just to keep the conversation interesting. I wouldn’t want them to forget us easily.
It’s nice to be back.
This should help get your weekend off to a nice start…
“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
Thirty-nine years ago today my father passed away suddenly, less than a day after we buried my thirty-two year old brother-in-law who died of cancer. When you spend a week and half sitting in a funeral home making final arrangements for two people of your immediate family, life has a way of changing you. Not immediately, and sometimes not even in ways you can understand or explain. But it does change you.
It’s hard to believe so much time has gone by and even more difficult to think about everything they missed and everything we missed sharing with them. We lost a part of our future and past in a matter of days. I don’t know if we ever really recover from loss or just throw a blanket over it to allow us to function each day. We carry on, we laugh, we welcome new family members, we enjoy life because there is no other choice. We live for the living and for ourselves. Still, there’s always a hole, always moment in days where we stop and maybe smile at a memory or what they might have done or said about a family situation. Or the way life has changed so much over the years.
Here’s the strange part of the story…
A couple of weeks before my Dad died, I had a dream. In my dream, I saw him in a coffin at the funeral home, exactly as he appeared after he passed away.
Ten years earlier, my grandfather, (my father’s father), died unexpectedly. A couple of weeks before he died, I had a dream. In that dream, I saw him as he appeared in the coffin. My grandfather lived in Brooklyn so I had never been to that funeral parlor. And yet, when I walked in, everything was as I had seen it. In detail. I remember it very clearly.
A couple of days after my father was buried, I told my mother about both dreams. For obvious reasons, I had never told anyone about them before. She wanted to know why I didn’t tell her. She wondered if there might have been something we could have done if she had known. But as soon as she said the words, she understood.
You can’t alter your life chasing those types of dreams, just like you can’t alter your life chasing what might have been. There’s no time for that, no secret recipe for the secrets of life.
So hold the ones you love close. Those that are here and those who are not. And if the ones who are here don’t understand, hold them closer.
It’s not what you gather but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you’ve lived.
I was thinking about my childhood the other day and trying to remember how far back my memories went. I settled on somewhere between four and five years old but there were only a handful that were clear to me. That bothered me, especially when I took what was then and applied it to now.
Making memories with the people you love or care about is one of life’s greatest gifts. Some of the times we’ve laughed most were with our children and grandchildren, especially during their early years, when everything is on the table, learning is a daily adventure, innocent words are a sound byte and your sense of wonder sometimes equals theirs. Those are memories that we’ll keep with us forever. Unfortunately, it’s all one-sided. Because in those early years it’s not anything they’ll remember. Influenced, yes. But all the things that were said or laughed about until there were tears in our eyes will not be a definitive memory for them.
That shouldn’t bother me because it’s just another cycle of life, but it does. I remember things that we did with our children and now our grandchildren that were special moments, and though we can relay the stories, it’s not the same as being there in our mutual minds. I sit and have conversations now with our grandchildren, play games, tell stories, laugh at the silliest things, hold them if they cry and sit back and wonder if they’ll remember any of it.
I’ve always understood this but I suppose as I’ve gotten older, Helen Walton’s quote has taken on a different meaning. You want those you love to remember every last laugh and cuddle and hand holding because you know that time of innocence, like life, is so short. Eight or nine comes too quick and soon they’re moving on. Parents will always be more invested in the lives of their children/grandchildren than the other way around. That’s just the way it is. It’s not a matter of loving or caring, it’s just the emotional investment that begins long before they open their eyes and never goes away.
So selfishly you want them to remember it all. Every amazing moment. Big and small. Hoping that you’ve scattered enough love and joy into their lives that one day they may laugh at something silly for no reason at all. You may not know it or even be there. But if it brought them happiness, then maybe something in their two year old lives stuck, and you’ve scattered enough.
And maybe, just maybe, the shade of a memory will not only be yours.
When I was young, and even as I grew older, I believed we had one life to live. I suppose, in a literal sense, that’s still true, but I’ve come to understand that there is a difference between life, and the lives we live within that life.
The transitions are so gradual that we don’t always know they’re happening. But one day, when we choose to stop for more than a few moments and look back at the different phases our lives have visited , we realize the person in that photo may not think or act the same; may not believe what he or she once did when they were innocently smiling at the camera.
When we’re young we live a life of innocent freedoms. Days that never end, summers that last forever, years that we trust will always be there. School is a double decade that gradually introduces us to less freedom, some stress and relationships with family and friends that have the power to shape and influence our lives forever. We were born into these first twenty years and when the transition into “adulthood” happens, we head into it as a continuation of what we know, combined with changes to our daily life and schedules, but never really looking back. Well, maybe when loss rears its ugly head, when we find that we have to navigate the future without someone we always thought would be there for us. We may take a moment to look back then. To remember what was.
But there are things to do. A life to live. Or at least this part of our life. We have jobs, sometimes marry, sometimes begin families and for the next twenty or so years, become that person. We live that life of advancing our careers or attempting to keep our jobs. If we’re married and have children, we run as if the next event, game, concert, field trip, party, sleepover or dance is life altering. Until it abruptly stops, and children go to college or find a job and hopefully move out.
And we transition again.
Sometimes this change is a little more noticeable. Sometimes we pause a little longer. Our families grow smaller before they get bigger. Family celebrations are different because some of the people at the center of those celebrations are no longer with us. So we sometimes move to other homes and begin different traditions. Our mornings are a little more quiet, our evenings require less running and we find more time for ourselves to enjoy this part of our lives. If we’re fortunate, our working lives begin to wind down and we find time to appreciate time.
If we’re lucky.
These lives we live change us in different ways. Our centers become different or altered at times. Our judgments, mindsets, and beliefs all find different ways or equations to the answers in front of us. Hopefully our core values remain the same but that’s never a given. We may want to believe we are the same person today as we were twenty or thirty years ago, but we aren’t. In truth, how can we be? We’ve lived and lost too much. We’ve gained new experiences, travelled, developed new friendships, learned new ways and came to appreciate the lives we live now, more than ever.
I look back at old photos now and wonder what that boy or young man was thinking of at the time, what his day was like and what he was looking forward to tomorrow. I wonder if he had a plan or dream that day. I wonder what was making him laugh in that moment, why he chose to buy that ugly shirt and when he was going to finally get a haircut. I wonder if he would change anything if he knew everything.
Personally, I believe he wouldn’t change a thing.
P.S. I’ll be back soon.
A couple of years ago, while visiting a small book store in Newport Rhode Island, I came across an interesting book titled, Empty Mansions. I didn’t buy it then but strangely enough, my brother gave it to me as a gift several months later. I always meant to read it but for some reason it sat on my reading shelf for over a year.
Fast forward to a couple of months ago and one of the blogs I really enjoy following is Book Club Mom. If you’ve never visited, I highly recommend giving her a look. Barbara does a terrific job reviewing all kinds of books and opening up interest where none existed before.
Coincidently, she reviewed Empty Mansions just as I was beginning to think it might be a good time to read it.
I have included the link to Barbara’s review of the book below since I could never do it as well as she did. In short, it is a story of Huguette Clark, an incredibly wealthy woman, who owned and maintained palatial homes in California, New York and Connecticut, though some remained empty and not visited for over fifty years. It’s the story of a woman who, in spite of her wealth, lived the last twenty years of her life in a simple hospital room, despite being in excellent health. She was 104 when she died, choosing to live in the strangest form of seclusion.
But there is much more which you will find here….
One of the things which touched me the most and, in some ways, helped me to understand Huguette, was an old French fable titled, The Cricket. Sometimes it is called, True Happiness and is included at the end of the book. It was written in the late 1700’s by Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian.
A poor little cricket
Hidden in the flowery grass,
Observes a butterfly
Fluttering in the meadow.
The winged insect shines with the liveliest colors;
Azure, purple and gold glitter on his wings;
Young , handsome, foppish, he hastens from flower to flower,
Taking from the best ones.
Ah! says the cricket, how his lot and mine
Are dissimilar! Lady Nature
For him did everything, and for me nothing.
I have no talent, even less beauty;
No one takes notice of me, they know me not here below;
Might as well not exist.
As he was speaking, in the meadow
arrives a troop of children,
Immediately they are running
after this butterfly, for which they all have a longing.
Hats, handkerchiefs, caps serve to catch him.
The insect in vain tries to escape.
He becomes soon their conquest.
One seizes him by the wing, another by the body;
A third arrives and takes him by the head.
It should not be so much effort
To tear to pieces the poor creature.
Oh! Oh! says he cricket, I am no more sorry;
It costs too dear to shine in this world.
How much I am going to love my deep retreat!
To live happily, live hidden.
The fable, which was a favorite of Huguette, has a powerful lesson.
The book is both fascinating, and sad.
I can’t tell if she really wanted to sleep or stay awake. In either case, this video of our six month old granddaughter, Taylor, should make you smile.