Once a year we have a day to remind us of those who have given their lives for this country as well as those we have lost over the years. When you reach a certain point in your life you experience more and more memorial days throughout the year.
Youth and growth is all about gain. We grow physically and our hopes expand into new realities as we create a career path and start to define our lives by relationships. We meet new people and we see the possibilities for making ourselves and the world a better place.
The world is not so rosy for everyone but most of us believe that our lives will improve and we work to make that happen. In the process we try to build physical and emotional strength and make the connections that provide the soil for all of us to grow.
As the years and decades roll by the upward movement begins to reach its peak and at some point we realize that our lives are on a downward slope. This does not have to be a sad realization. Most of us don’t wake up one morning and proclaim, “My life is going downhill. The end is near.” It happens slowly and when the realization hits I suspect that most of us have internalized the nature of the forces causing the downward movement.
Bodies begin to fall apart. Joints wear out. Hearts and blood vessels show signs of too much wear and tear and we need to find the repair department that can place stents and valves and other parts to make sure the pump is efficient.
We start hobbling around and delay the inevitable need for a new knee or hip and then, when it is finally put in place, we realize how stupid we were to wait so long. The human body does not come with an instruction book and our best guide is instinct and common sense.
The decay of the body is one kind of loss. Then there is the loss of friends and family. The older you get the more you experience loss. Not exactly a revelation. Of course some people experience unexpected losses throughout their lives and that is a different kind of pain. The loss that moves us on the downward slope happens when family and friends pass on.
As our parents die we become orphans as we transition into a new phase of our lives. Then friends and other family members die off on a regular basis and we attend funerals and memorial services at the same rate that we used to go to weddings. That is when it becomes clearer that we too are moving into new territory.
I remember a 100 year old man that I saw on a regular basis when I worked as a home health nurse. At his 100th birthday party I asked him if he had any profound thoughts as a centenarian. He told me that he felt lonely because there was no one of his age left to talk to.
Being on the downslope is not an entirely bad thing. Along the journey we do learn things and we have the opportunity to take it all in and look at the big picture. If we give ourselves the time and the space to reflect, we can come to appreciate the gift of experiencing all the parts of life we have been given if we are willing to learn the lessons that have been presented to us.