Letting go of life

August 19, 2014

One of the most difficult times in the retirement years is letting go of better times - times when my body could still play tennis - times when your mind still remembered phone numbers or passwords. My husband says we are almost ready to hide our own Easter eggs.

We recently hid our house key, only we didn’t remember we changed the hiding place. We thought it was still hidden on the back porch. Then two rounds of, “I guess we never put it back the last time we got locked out,” and, “Oh, I am certain that I did!” We finally remembered that it was somewhere on the shelf in the garage because then we wouldn’t have to walk all the way to the back of the house and return to the front with key in hand. Only after we went next door to get our key from our much younger neighbor, we remembered it was inside the garage on the shelf near the door. We looked under the paper napkins and the cans of tomato sauce and then - the brain suddenly came to life - the ice bucket. This reminds me of the game of getting warmer…getting colder…add getting senile.

As we age, funerals become more frequent. Our neighborhood recently lost smiling Raymond, who loved to walk and bike our circle greeting everyone with hello. Upon becoming a widow, my friend Holly likened grief to navigating the ocean. Her vessel was too fragile to handle the recurring waves, she said.

Paula, manager of Secure Storage in Long Neck, and I were discussing funerals the other day when I went to pay my bill. Because of lost relatives, we pay for a storage shed of family heirlooms for fear our dead relatives will never forgive us if we get rid of them. Paula shared a story about a relative who planned her own funeral in such detail, she bought the dress she wanted to be buried in. Paula said every few years, she would go change her mind and go shopping for a different dress.

Tragically, my own sister Karen passed away in July of a brain aneurysm at the young age of 61. We tried to make Karen’s memorial one she would appreciate. We imagined her with us, so we made certain to have a candy bowl filled with licorice, Mary Janes, Necco wafers, salt water taffy and Jolly Ranchers. There are varying ways of honoring a loved one. Her children also opted for a crab feast and Fisher’s Popcorn. Our community honored Raymond by placing a stone at our entrance to the development, where he helped plant flowers.

My mother-in-law Edna practically worked herself to death, surviving a stroke which left her blind in one eye. After she retired to the mountains in Tennessee, she took up porcelain painting and went on to win blue ribbons for her art. She died in 2003, but spent the best years of her retirement life learning and loving to paint.

My friend Margie struggled at first with retiring from a prestigious top job in the Pennsylvania school system, but has since learned to paint with watercolor. She showed me the painting of her beloved dog Tyler she just completed. He passed away too in June. I see blue ribbons in her future too! Enjoying life is the best way to honor our loved ones and ourselves.