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Or not to be

I’ve been missing him more lately. Perhaps it comes from visiting family and scattering some of his ashes at  the foot of his parents’ gravestone. Perhaps it’s the letdown following a very positive family gathering. Perhaps it was celebrating his birthday with the children and grandchildren by each eating a bowl of coffee ice cream (his favorite) and then sending pictures back and forth. Perhaps it was going through papers and finding his birth certificate, high school diploma, passports, and other reminders of our shared life. Perhaps it is the simple realization that he’s never coming back.  

Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sonnet Lament scrolls through my mind. “Life goes on though good men die.  Life goes on. I forget just why.” I grieve with two dear friends whose beloved partners died within the past three weeks. Knowing there is nothing I can do to make things easier for them fills me with both sadness and love. Walking the neighborhood, lush with flowers, green grass, soaring trees, shadowed hillsides soothes my soul. I am so grateful I discovered the power of gratitude in the 12 step program.  

While going through those family records with our daughter, she and I agreed that one of the things that makes his death so painful is that he spent so much of his life emotionally absent and absorbed in his career and volunteer work. He was rarely home when the kids were growing up. Not only was he busy being busy, he fought crippling arthritis his entire adult life. 

It was only later in life that he became more present to us and he began trying to be more attentive. He often said that the arrival of grandchildren gave him a second chance, calling forth that gentle tender part of him he had earlier tried to hide. The older he got the more present he became to all of us. The fact that the months leading up to his death were among the best of our 63 years together is one of the reasons it’s been so hard letting him go.  When I think of what we could have shared….but I dare not go there. We had what we had and it was good.

Like Hamlet I often find myself wondering what the future will bring and ask myself “To be, or not to be? That is the question—Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And, by opposing, end them?” The idea of whether it  is better to live or to die….”   

Whether it is better to live or die? I may be feeling sad this morning, but one thing is clear.  I have an answer for Hamlet. I want to live! Like Joshua who said unto all the people [of Israel], … choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:2, 15)    And what better way to serve the Lord but to live my remaining days filled to overflowing with gratitude that he was and remains an integral part of who I am? 

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Steve Niebler
Steve Niebler
1 year ago

This is an amazing column. Very well done.

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