“The value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them; a man may live long yet live very little.” ~ Montaigne
I attended a wake last night; my first one in quite a while actually. It was for the grandmother of a dear friend of mine who I met in freshman college English class at UMASS. Nana was 93 years old when she died and had lived a full and vital life according to my friend Lauren. I had only met Nana a few times in my life, the most recent being so long ago I could not remember when it took place. However Lauren and I go back twenty-one years and I know her Nana meant a lot to her, so I make the trip to Boston’s North Shore to pay my respects to my longtime friend and her family.
It was one of those wakes where although people were understandably sad about their loss, there was also a lot of laughter and great memories. There were many significant and candid photos surrounding the funeral parlor room and it was obvious from the words exchanged and the sounds of laughter, that Nana and her family are very loved. I don’t know if it was because she had lived such a full life and/or because the disposition of the family and friends that were present; but it seemed that she was being celebrated as much as she was being mourned.
Because of the length of the drive from my home to the wake and the wonderful joy of rush hour traffic around Boston, I had a lot of time in the car to think about what it would be like to live to such a grand age of 93 years old. Nana sure packed a lot of living into those 93 years. It also made me think: how many of us pack as much living into each day as we can? Do we truly live each day to the fullest or do we let ourselves get stuck in a rut of the mundane? Of course with the demands of work, children, aging parents, and overall life stress/chaos, we cannot always have happy-go-lucky days. That does not mean that we cannot have full days though. Do we really try to get the most out of each day that is presented to us whether it be spending the day cleaning our house so we feel better about our surroundings or even spending a day at the park with our children, making lasting memories? Do we throw ourselves into our jobs with passion and vigor? Do we share ourselves every day with the ones that we love?
I also got to think about my own life situation and how I try to live each day as fully as I can. I have been blessed in the past two weeks to have my health significantly improve because of some recent medication changes. Although I have been often labeled an idealist, I am also very much a realist. Because these medication changes are still happening and my health is so unpredictable, I know I won’t feel like this permanently, without further episodes. What I do know is this: I have used the past two weeks as an opportunity to live as fully as I can because I know when those really bad days come back, I will be much more limited in what I can do. So I have pushed myself hard to get out and do more of the things I love to do; get things done around my apartment that have been neglected for months; have as much fun as possible; catch up on projects; and get more exercise and time outside. Now when those bad days do come back, it doesn’t mean I can’t live those days as fully as I can. However it does mean that I will be living them fully in a different type of way. So my hope for everyone who reads this is that you try to live each day as fully as you can so that like Nana, you too can be remembered with fond memories and laughter.