This year has been fraught with medical issues for me. It comes with the territory, I guess–I am 68 years old. Things begin falling apart or wearing out at this stage in life. It is not unusual, based on the number of my peers who occupy the other waiting room chairs at the various medical facilities I visit. We should all be grateful we’ve made it this long and with some luck, along with good care, we may well live for another decade or more. Many folks much younger than we are have already died for one reason or another. It leads me to the conclusion that life is, indeed, fragile, yet those who live it long and well have proved durable. Can something be fragile and durable at the same time? It is a bit of a puzzlement.
Because of circumstance, I think a lot more about life—or is it living I am thinking about? I guess this is natural. I have outlived my father’s lifespan, a goal I had for many years and now it’s left on the roadside miles back as I’ve traveled beyond it. My father died at 66. It was not necessary for him to die so young. It was simply a matter of circumstance. Had little pieces of the moment been arranged in a different pattern, he very well should have lived many years beyond. But life is fragile.
My wife’s sister, in her early thirties, disappointed in her broken marriage, had a sorrowful car accident one night that took her life. Had circumstance been different, had she normally been home with her husband, had she made better decisions about driving that night after being out with friends, had she been more alert, had there been no oncoming car on the bridge, she very well should have lived many years beyond. But life is fragile.
My new friend at a new job in a new town helped make my career expand early on. Had circumstance been different, his heart would not have slowly deteriorated, leaving him emaciated and one day unable to make it home on his own. I drove him home, called his doctor and his wife. He would never talk about his illness as I watched it quickly devour him over a short period of time. We were both in our 20s. But life is fragile.
My son-in-law and I had bonded so well over the early years of his marriage to my daughter that there was no “in-law” label attached. We had become good friends—good father and son. He was a career military man. He and my daughter gave us three wonderful granddaughters. Their divorce was hard for me to absorb and the loss of my good buddy left a void. Had circumstance been different, he may not have gone for that late-night swim while on a camping trip with his girls. Had he been more tired he may have fallen asleep with them. The mystery of how he drowned that night died with him. It was just wrong. But life is fragile.
I’ve become mystified by the elements of time and place and how they can sometimes play a critical role in what happens to us. There but for a second’s tick or a centimeter’s length our fate can be decided. Then, sometimes, time and place have no bearing. Some fates evolve within our bodies, planted there by past generations, recklessly and randomly selecting which descendants to infect.
Hardships are part of life. They can be cruelly unbearable, but our resilience—our durability—gets us through. Our loved ones and friends serve as reinforcement and a source of strength. I am blessed to have a devoted lady at my side for over half a century. Likewise, I have several very good friendships, two as far back as 7th grade. And recently, there is a renewed friendship from my college years; a lucky and welcomed reunion. I am blessed and I must not forget it, must never take it for granted and must never fail to show how grateful I am. And that is why I have taken the time to write this piece…because life is fragile.