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Friday, November 19, 2010

LIVING TO 88

Good old Aunt K passed away at the age of 88. A long life one would say, but I guess not long enough for those who loved her. I wonder if it was long enough for her or if she would have thought it sweet to have some more - perhaps just a glimpse at being 89 may have pleased her.

Can it be so bad to die at 88? In Asian cultures, 88 symbolises fortune and prosperity (that's why the Beijing Olympics opened on 8/8/08). But all those 8s were not so fortuitous for the late Aunt K. Or were they? Was death a precious release? Truth is, there was too much dignity and deportment shown by her progeny during the funeral. All four of her seeds wept in silence, solemnly and to themselves as people of good upbringing so often do. I am often suspicious yet somehow strangely comforted when upbringing triumphs over despair. There is strange consolation when order and dignity are chosen over chaos.

But what can I know of the funeral party's real feelings? After all, I had only seen Aunt K several times in my life, and those times were so long ago. She was such a quiet woman who had not left much of an imprint on my memory. Her four children, however, had an abundance of joy in their youth that made me feel somewhat lacking as an only child. There was much warmth in their large living room. Well, at least it seemed large then when I was only 10.

Surely they had taken their togetherness for granted for the three sons had scattered across the globe and the daughter felt weary from having to deal with her mother's health problems alone.

The funeral reunion brought them together. The last time had been at a wedding or some baptism, I think. Now they were grey-haired, no longer boisterous or looking like they had once had fun. So dignified and grave. Reserved.

Once again, I remembered my own age and cringed at life's inevitable cycle. Oh, the irony that this boring woman lived so long, when Alexander and Vivi had died so young even though they were so memorable...but, we shouldn't think such things, especially at funerals...

Unable to handle this thought and incapable of handling the feeling that I was voyeur to other people's pain I looked away. And then I left, leaving them to deal with their loss. After this blog entry I may even forget about it... After all, I knew Aunt K so little and was never quite drawn to know more.

12 comments:

Colleen said...

I think your question is good...is 88 years enough? It sounds like a long life but I suppose it depends on the person living it and those who love them. Probably any amount of time with the people you love seems too short.
I was struck by your paragraph about the grown children at the funeral...I've often wondered what happens to us as we age, why is it that we loose our passion, look like we have never had fun? I almost thought that was the saddest part of the post, certainly the part that resonated most with me at least.
Even though you didn't know her well, I'm so sorry about your aunt.
Hugs.

LJ said...

My condonlenses. And 88 is a good long life. Friends and I were just talking about age yesterday. Most of us around the table didn't want to see that kind of age come our way. ONLY IF we could guarantee we would still be living healthy and independently.

There are no guarantees in life.

Sandy, Sisters of Season said...

Hi Mary, I think when anyone passes it is definitely hard for the ones they leave behind . . they never seem to live long enough. I don't know if I want to live that long. My Auntie Mary is battling cancer at 86 years and she says she is so ready to go. Life is too short, so grab all you can and enjoy it. Sandy:O)

Purple Cow said...

The daughter seemed relieved a little...one of her kids is disabled and she had to run around for her mother and the kid...the other three have long since forgotten their roots, built families, grown up... I know, I'd rather die early than be a burden...

There was nothing too emotional at this funeral. I know I didn't feel anything much.

I never remember her saying anything. I guess our funerals are like our lives. Live mildly and get a moist farewell, live meanly and nobody will show up...live with gusto and spark and you'll live on forever...

Thanks for your responses. No condolensces necessary. As I said, I hardly knew her, maybe there was more to her.

Eliza said...

Life is strange, I suppose we will only know if it's long enough when we get there, it seems long enough now though.

Toyin O. said...

May she rest in peace .

Phoenix said...

I would say living to 88 is a good amount. We all dread not living as long as we'd like, but we rarely talk about the other end of it - living until 103, with no idea who anyone is anymore, nothing but a burden upon those who are taking care of us.

I'm sure you Aunt lived a good life and now that her children are adults perhaps they think that this is just another part of your Aunt's journey. I'm wishing you all the best.

Bringing Pretty Back said...

My sister in law's dad died ast week0 he fel out of a tree and broke his neck- 57 years old. tragic. This was so well written.
Kristin

Linda Pressman said...

My mother has always astounded me by insisting that people have "died young" at increasingly older and older ages, ages that, in fact, match her own as she's aged. Now when someone dies under 80, she insists they've died young!

I don't know what the answer is. I know despite my best efforts at keeping my mother alive I can only do so much. Her life had a beginning and there will be an end to it no matter how incomprehensible it seems when we stand at graveside and are left wondering.

Thanks for this lovely, honest post.

Purple Cow said...

Linda,I guess we can die when we are no longer needed, when we become a burden and stop being ourselves.

BPP - We had a friend who everyone tried to dissuade from marrying a woman 20 years his senior. It always looked like she was his mum. Ends up that he fell off a cliff in Santorini and she's as mischievous as ever.


Phoenix - I think I'll be ready after my first great grandchildren.

Toyin - Thanks

Eliza - Will we know when we've had enough or will we always want more or will some of us die without even having lived?

lilbuttercup said...

My best to you, even if she wasn't a close relative, she was still a part of your life. But 88 years is a wonderful age to see such change and experience. I hope she had a lovely, enjoyable life.

Purple Cow said...

Noooooooo..... :-(
Do you suppose they sacked the postman, too?