‘There’s no time to lose,’ I heard her say
Catch your dreams before they slip away
Dying all the time
Lose your dreams and you will lose your mind
Ain’t life unkind?’
I’m back. And I’m in a Ruby Tuesday frame of mind.
Have you ever thought you’ve lost your life dream, this time for good? That it was just too hard to wrestle to the ground because it kept dancing and weaving like a punch-drunk boxer?
It is the fortunate soul who translates the cheesy inspirational quotes, motivational speakers and advice from their elders into action, even if it is one baby step at a time.
I am not one of them.
But, funny thing. When death slaps us upside the head, we are awake.
Mr. Jones, my first lesson in death.
When I was eight and our neighbor Mr. Jones died of a blood clot at age 36, Mama said, “Oh, mercy. So young!”, I turned this event this way and that in my head, puzzling over it because Mr. Jones seemed a few years short of the rest home to me.
He was 36. In my mind, almost ready for adult diapers.
Much later, I lost my friend Susan.
A few short months ago, my friend Susan died. She and I had bonded quickly because we were both journalists, working at small, local papers in a mid-sized town a short drive from Seattle. We also had connections to education—me a former teacher and school principal, her married to the president of a technical college— and had judged the Ahead of the Class teacher award applications every year.
She was 53. Way too young to leave us.
And then my favorite aunt.
A few short months after Susan’s death, my beloved Aunt Jeanette was gone. By the time I reconnected with her son, my cousin, she was in hospice. She was gone before I had a chance to say goodbye to her.
She was 81. She lived a good life. But I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
Aunt Jeanette was my three-week foster parent at a very uncertain time of my life. For a rural girl from a working class family–Daddy was a truck driver, Mama a housekeeper and occasional bark peeler (more about that in my upcoming book)— she was my rock, guiding me through unfathomable turf as I left my little coastal lumber town for the big city and the University of Washington, a school twice the size of my home town.
I was so simple at heart, so desperately wanting to belong, that I did not comprehend that when the exuberant, sophisticated students at the Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority kept inviting me back, it was because they thought I was Jewish.
It wasn’t until the Final Three parties, the last events before the formal pledge bids were extended, that the young women in The UW’s only Jewish sorority realized that I didn’t have a drop of Jewish blood in me. When I stared at them, dumbfounded at the question, “What synagogue do you belong to?” they realized their mistake.
My surname, Spaur, a good German name but not German-Jew, had thrown them off. They had made me feel wanted, something I was sorely lacking in my life, and now they were “uninviting” me.
I was crushed.
I wanted to say, “Wait! I’ll convert!”
And thus went Pledge Week. Aunt Jeanette was there to dry my tears and feed me pork roast and chocolate cake. She had a way, with that ever-present twinkle in her eye, of fixing things, like Mercurochrome on a skinned knee.
Her death leaves a hole in my heart and an urgency to get the rest of my own life right.
It’s sobering, losing someone we thought would always be around. It hits us in the gut in a sand-in-the-hourglass sort of way. There is always that question, if you had just a year to live, what would you do, how would your perspective on life change?
But why wait? Shouldn’t we we doing the carpe-diem thing right now? Like today?
What have you always wanted to do that you never seem to have the time for?