Sunday, March 15, 2015

Birthdays and a Funeral

Against my better judgment I was headed out this morning to walk the dog. It was cold and windy and my fibromyalgia is really acting up. Needless to say, it's probably a good thing I have a dog who needs to walk to do his daily duty or I would spend more mornings holed up inside rather than getting a meager amount of exercise. Anyway, we were just starting out when our neighbors and good friends, a couple who live two doors away were also headed out in their car. They paused en route and she rolled down the window to greet me. As if to answer my predictable question before I uttered it, she "responded" with "Birthdays and a funeral." "I'm there with you," I said, thinking about the memorial service I'm supposed to go to this afternoon. And then they waved good bye as they drove off.

Birthdays and a funeral. I pondered this phrase as I walked down the street. Birthdays and a funeral.
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Bookends to life. Birthdays--the day we enter this life and then the subsequent celebrations of continuing to reach those days yearly; funerals--"celebrations" of life we euphemistically call them now. Both happen every day. It's just ironic when one encounters them in the same day. Or perhaps not.

Birthdays and a funeral. Beginnings and endings.  Yin & yang. Every day we experience beginnings and endings. We start a book; we finish a book. We start a task; we complete a task. Life ends; life goes on. There is a natural order to things and life is full of beginnings and endings.

But I know that one of the birthdays my friends were going to celebrate was that of one of their granddaughters who just turned 19. And the funeral was for someone much older. The memorial service I was going to was for a teen-aged boy--not much younger than their granddaughter--who took his own life just last week. There is a natural order to things and that is not the way it is supposed to be. It is widely accepted that you just don't jump to the end of a book. You're supposed to start at the beginning and gradually work your way through it. We consider it cheating when someone reads the end first. Young people aren't supposed to die, particularly by their own hands. At 17 there is, conceivably, more life to be lived, more of the story to be told or revealed, more birthdays to celebrate. We should not be "celebrating" the life he lived but rather celebrating with him the continuance of life until some other much later time. Until the task is finished, until the book is completed.

The book doesn't end when we always expect it to and sometimes it has a surprise ending. Birthdays and a funeral.

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