Life and death wash over our lives like tidal waves that ebb and flow upon the beach. With the passing of each generation, the tide enters and washes clear the sandy footprints of existence. It then recedes to let the next generation trod upon it before returning to wipe the slate clean once again.
As a child, we endure a random exhibition of funerals that are meaningless beyond the unwanted experience of signals that a piece of life exists that we don’t want to admit. We see death as a place to hide under chairs or in the back room of the funeral parlor where family members steal away to get a cup of coffee while avoiding the realization that something beyond real existence is a possibility. Our parents mourned the loss of family members that weren’t a big part of our lives but important to them. Life, at that point, didn’t have the same all encompassing umbrella reaching from today to the afterlife. It was immediate and moved day by day. It always returned the next and was never farther away than a sunrise or two.
As others’ beaches were etched and cleared and only sunrise marks the passage of days for a child, the wrinkles of time creep slowly on the the faces of our grandparents. The first loss of immediate family comes with a striking realization that life really isn’t forever and our existence is only temporary. For the first time, we have the understanding that, when life terminates, there is something missing that helped to complete the meaning of our life. The immediacy of today fades into plans for the future and inevitably, yet slowly, dissolves to an understanding that life isn’t permanent.
Quickly and sooner than anyone could ever want or expect, the waves again return to clean the beach of our parents visible traces that filled our lives. What’s left is a part of the beach where we can never return because the emptiness is too vast. The cavernous void left by the passing of a parent will always exist in our hearts. There will always be that autonomic-like desire to share the latest experience, memories that leap from the deep recess of our minds that beg for further discussion and the posthumous need to know something about their life that went unasked while they walked beside us. Our only recourse is to avoid this area of our thoughts until we finally realize we must alter our normal path to avoid this barren place. We slowly discover new ways to familiar avenues while avoiding the trappings that bring the flood of memories and the need for contact that will never be available. Our mortal existence once again comes into focus and we realize that only through our interactions with others is a permanence assured. The foundation of our legacy is built on the values we have chosen and others have espoused.
And finally, the waves return and begin to wash upon the beaches that are marred with the familiarity of our generation. It is now time to admit our inevitable future as the faces that have given us comfort through many sorrows start to diminish in number one by one. We are left in a field surrounded by abyss where each turn is greeted with the ghost of a friendly, loving face that is no longer there to consul our weary heart. And as the abyss grows to where only solitude is comfort, we reflect on how, as a child, we were oblivious to the frailty of our bodies and the future that ultimately awaits us all. How, as a child, we raced to the end of each day in anticipation of the next sunrise waking us to unknown adventures. And as the golden years of childhood are dreamed in our waking hours, we look for sleep to comfort us once more and replenishing our bodies as it did after long days of play.
But instead of a renewed energy, we are given comfort in dark slumber and, in death, all is once again peaceful.