In the last six weeks or so I’ve been reminded about the importance of our individual and family stories, of recording and sharing them with our family members and friends. I count myself among the lucky who can still ask the questions, find answers, and delve deeper into my family’s past.
Since December I have attended two funerals. Both individuals were parents and grandparents, dearly loved by their respective family members, friends and colleagues. Both died too young, as though there is some mystical “right age” that that doesn’t leave the family members heartbroken. One loss was sudden, a shock to all who knew him. The other was expected, but no less tragic when the time finally arrived to say good-bye to her. I watched as their grown children, mostly my age, gracefully navigated this new world that had left them newly orphaned. My heart wept for the grandchildren, some too young to ever get to know their grandparent, others old enough to understand the gravity of their loss. I listened to the vivid stories told by their children and grandchildren and marvelled at the rich lives they had lived. It was in the stories that were told at their funerals that I came to know these individuals in ways I had not when they were living. It is in their stories that they will live on. I prayed their stories will continue to be told and retold to each new generation.
In these weeks, my family also suffered a scare that left my father hospitalized. After he endured a multitude of tests, and was poked and prodded by various doctors and nurses, we were relieved to learn that his heart was strong (as though we had any doubt), but required some help. Days after passing out on his snow-covered driveway, his heart unable to pump the required fuel to keep him standing, my father received a pacemaker. Within hours his eyes brightened and his cheeks returned to a colour I had not observed for a very long time. On a cold winter afternoon we brought him home where he is recovering. I am not surprised to see that he is anxious to continue with his usual activities. Not yet, we tell him. Let yourself heal. Give yourself time. But he has been a fighter for so long he is impatient to get on with living.
We cannot know when our time will come, whether it will be sudden or prolonged. We can’t anticipate when we will receive the gift of more time. But about this I am sure: we are our stories. Without them, we leave our loved ones lost and orphaned, with no one to guide us on our way.