In Memoriam

Chicago1My 92-year-old paternal grandmother and my dad’s closest friend passed away last month before Thanksgiving, and I’m reminded of one of my favorite Robert Frost poems, “My November Guest,” which starts:

“MY Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.”

It was a disorienting feeling–sad but not entirely surprising since they were both in failing health.  Nonetheless, their passing compelled me to take stock in my own life and to reflect how best I am making the most of my time in the here and now.  This is the mindset I am bringing to the holidays, particularly with my family, and I’ve noticed our relationship has deepened, and my attention is focused on the things that are really important.   As the year winds down, I feel more relaxed, celebratory even.

These realizations are pretty standard following the death of a loved one, but I supposed what really surprised me was the outpouring of sympathies from those outside my family, whom I would imagined wouldn’t even care, let alone showed the kind of compassion reserved for a close friend or relative.  I guess I have to recalibrate my expectations of people.  Death is universal–it catches up with everyone one way or another; and the element of surprise is a gift.

“Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.”