Volunteering at a hospital adorns me with friends whose ages span from 70 to 6. It’s actually quite enlightening. Occasionally a child needs looking after while a parent attends to adult things, and I have the privilege of listening to a first-grader read to me. Having friends who are older is especially important since my mother and I never had the chance to talk about life the way I would have liked. How we spoke when I was 19 is vastly different from how we would speak today.
For that reason, I make it a point to nurture and cherish the blips of time I share with women who are senior to me. So the other day I was visiting with one of my 70-plus friends to practice my French. Somehow we started talking about the passing of her husband and she shared a beautifully romantic excerpt of that story with me.
Toward the end of his life, her husband said, “I’m exhausted. I’m going.” She responded acrimoniously, “Wait a minute, you’re not going anywhere. We haven’t discussed how you want to have your funeral. How I am supposed to take care of everything? I don’t know how you want everything to go!”
They never did talk about it. Two days later, he passed away and she had the unpleasant job of going to the funeral home to make arrangements. When she got there, she learned that her husband had gone in three months earlier and taken care of everything. He knew that she was going to be stressed, upset, sad, distraught, and he didn’t want her to have to take on one more thing.
This relatively small action is none other than a labor of love. And that is the kind of lesson I would love to have learned from my mother. Even though friendships with mother figures in no way make up for her absence, they do enrich my role as a student of life. And while there is nothing binding people who have experienced loss together, there is an opportunity extended to all of us to appreciate and respect life’s magnificence.
Lauren Muscarella 2011