I think most people have a date in their past that bisects their own history. The date when everything shifted, the world tilted, life changed. A date that is used as a measuring unit against all events past and future.
For me it’s the year 2004, the year we lost both parents and moved into adulthood with stunning finality. Forever more when I hear a date related to anything, an event, a birthday, a bit of historical trivia I think…”that was before Mom died.” or “Dad had been gone a year by then.” 2004 feels something like a watershed, with all the life experiences prior cataloged as ‘before’ and everything that has happened since labeled ‘after.’
Yesterday my husband and I sat with a family member in waiting areas of two hospitals as her mother struggled to stay alive. We listened to her story, how her mother came to be this ill, what the prognosis was. While we waited we told family stories about relatives long gone, family members today, heard about her kids far away in another state. We laughed a bit, got teary a bit, hugged some. Worried a lot.
I wondered if the day would become her dividing point, the day she would remember as her world tilting, changing, forever different. Thankfully yesterday didn’t turn into that day. And this morning the sun is shining and there are new questions to ask, new decisions to be made.
I sat in waiting rooms yesterday and contemplated how life changes. How change is different for everyone. How I’ll never have to sit in a waiting room making life and death decisions for either of my parents. How I felt slightly guilty to be glad of that. But how I would have been grateful for time with either of them no matter how difficult saying goodbye would have been.
In the past month I’ve had three good friends lose a parent, witnessed three families defining before and after. I guess it’s natural.
But darn, change is hard.