It is hard to believe that it has been 5 years since Lydia earned her angel wings. Five years ago seems a short time ago, a long time ago, and a lifetime ago...all at the same time. It feels like a short time ago, in that I can still picture Lydia dancing, singing, and smiling, just as if she were here today. It feels a long time ago in that so much has happened since she died. Max has grown and changed so much, and Pooh came into our family. We traveled a lot, and made new memories together, all without her. And it feels like a lifetime ago, in that prior to her diagnosis and eventual death, I was a completely different person and lived a completely different life. In that sense, it might as well have been decades ago. She has now been dead longer than she was with us.
I would like to think I have learned a lot about life and death since she died, but in reality, I think the wisdom I have gained is understanding how little I know or will ever know. Part of the wisdom gained after her death is learning to accept life without understanding the why's, and accepting and maybe even enjoying the unsolvable mysteries.
If I could sum up what I have learned, I think I would characterize the principles generally as "The Three I's: Interdependence, Instant Gratification and Impermanence." Here is what I mean by each:
Interdependence. This term suggests that we are all linked; that no person is an island. We all need each other, and our actions impact other lives in ways, both good and bad, that we can't even begin to imagine or see. When Lydia was sick, people came to our rescue, both literally and spiritually. Our church provided sustenance and faith to us, and friends and family, both far and near, some well known and others only known through cyberspace, lifted us up. When you go through a crisis in life, it is apparent you need others, but realistically, we need each other day in, day out. We need to understand that our lives don't occur in a vaccuum, and that we can impact others by our words, gestures, actions, and faith on a daily basis, either for good or for bad. The choice is ours.
Instant Gratification. This term gets to the root of what separates us from what we are called to be and what we think we want. We could really use the words "greed" or "desire" here and they would fit just as well. When we place our wants ahead of our needs and the needs of others, we forget about the first principle of interdependence. We forget that we are linked to people all around the world, and our choices in lifestlye impact people we don't even know. From decisions about the environment and our individual role in that process, to the quest for things and stuff we want at the expense of others, our failure to keep our desires, our wants, in check only leads us away from who we are called to be.
Impermanence. This term suggests that life is a constantly changing, constantly evolving process. It is a journey and not a destination. Things never stay the same. In Japanese culture, the cherry blossom is a symbol of effervescence and impermanence. The cherry blossoms bloom brilliantly in the Spring, and then they are gone: a symbol of the changing nature of life, and of the fact that out of death comes new life. As we get older, we find out that life changes and we sometimes mourn the things we experiences in our youth that are no longer a part of our lives, or maybe even no longer a part of society. Buildings are torn down, family members die, and traditions fade away. We can either attempt to resist this part of life or we can choose to embrace it. On a larger scale, we never know what tomorrow may bring, and while we don't need to throw caution to the wind and shout "carpe diem!", we need to try and live in the moment without worry about or attachment to events or things that may or may not happen in the future. If we understand that life is essentially about change, and that we are all changing each and every moment of every day, maybe that understanding can translate into us remembering who and what is really important.
Life is not static, nor do we live it alone. We live it as part of a community: our families, our towns, our countries, and ultimately, our world. Lydia succeeded in bringing people of diverse backgrounds together for a common cause: to rejoice and celebrate life, and to understand that we all need each other. Thank you for being on this journey with me. The journey is not over; it has just begun.
Monica, Lydia's mom