Heraclitus, I believe, says that all things pass and nothing stays, and comparing existing things to the flow of a river, he says you could not step twice into the same river.-Plato, Cratylus
2023 has been a year of milestones. It began with unexpectedly having my work contract end, after having been told I was renewed for another year. That turned out to not be so bad, as I was able to transition to another WFH job smoothly.
Then came the awful news that our sweet cat had a tumor, and only months to live. That was very bad; it was so hard saying goodbye to her. It was a terrible reminder of death’s constant presence, but also a chance to reflect on mortality and the meaning of life and of love in our lives, as Sashimi was so precious to us.
Death was busy this year; early in 2023 two people I knew died from cancer, both from the same generation as Aileen and I. One was an old college friend I hadn’t seen since graduation, and the other was a friend of Aileen’s from her theater work. In the summer, one of my uncles died. I hadn’t seen him since I was a kid, but he did pop up on my Facebook feed to say nice things all the time (that’s been my experience with a lot of Boomer relatives).
The real blow came just a little later, when a dear friend from back in the day, one whom I had been seeing every year at a sort of game retreat down in Virginia, succumbed to his illness. Mark was one of the original players in our old Dungeons & Dragons game, which started some time back in the 1980s and went on for decades after that. He and I rolled up characters on the same day, a pair of thieves that were part of the longest lasting campaign I ever played in. We were in an adventuring party that hasn’t been together in a very long time; two other members have already passed away, in years past. There aren’t many of us left.
Some of us old dungeonheads have been gathering once a year, every Februray, for a weekend of gaming down in Virginia. We don’t play the old campaign, of course, but other games of a similar flavor. At this year’s gathering, Mark announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer. He assured us he would still be there for the next year’s gathering. But sadly he fell into rapid decline in July, and passed away earlier this month. It was devastating news, hitting very close to home, since we had been in touch and had seen one another recently.
Aileen and I drove down to the visitation that same weekend, then back up to attend a baby shower. As I sat watching the expectant mother open her presents, while her grandparents sat beside her, the grandmother filming, I got teary eyed. Aileen leaned over to ask if I was alright. “Cycle of life?” she asked, and I nodded. I was thinking of that; in one weekend, we said goodbye to a friend, then welcomed a new person into the world. But also I couldn’t help but notice how old the grandparents were – why did they get to live to old age, when my friend died so young?
I’m sorry if I seem resentful. I know I shouldn’t be. We all get to live the life we are allotted, and none of us can know when our number will come up. I have been very lucky, and am very grateful that all my immediate family, including my parents, are still alive. In fact, this summer, we celebrated my Dad’s 80th birthday. Another milestone.
What is life but a series of milestones that we pass, on our journey to an unknown end? Who knows how many seasons are left, before the show is cancelled? As Aileen reminds me, live every day as if was your last.