Appreciate every last bite of life

March 3, 2013

The elderly man who lived across the street died some months ago. He’d lost his wife years before.

The house sat empty for a long time, the faded dark wood exterior illuminated every night by a single bright fixture that must have been on a timer.

Then, we saw his grown children appear. They removed some items, moved others around.

An estate sale company came this weekend to sell it all.  I walked through a day after the sale began and there were still piles and piles of things to be sold. Depression glass. A floaty blue peignoir that looked like it was from the 1950s. Crochet trimmed handkerchiefs. Stacks of silver plate and “made in Japan” knickknacks. Worn towels and sheets. Vintage Christmas ornaments. At least 500 faded greeting cards that must have been in the wife’s files for use one day: birthday, Christmas, thank you–all kinds. (I have a file like that.)

Stuff collected over maybe eight decades of life and almost as many of marriage and child-rearing.  Mementos.

I looked around, remembering how we sold our parents’ things one weekend in western New York more than 10 years ago. That’s what kids do after their parents die. They go through all the familiar things and sell it all to others. Or throw it away.

Who will do this for us when our time comes? I wondered.  We have no children.

I thought about my own knicknacks, towels and dishes. The things I acquired on wonderful trips. One day those mementos will no longer be the repository for memories. Happy ones.  Sad ones. Emotional ones.

Some company will come in and sell it all to strangers who may or may not make their own memories of them.

But who will make that arrangement? I can’t shake that question.

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The couple two doors down from him are in their 80s, too. The wife bought the man’s walker for $25, my husband told me.

“Do they need a walker yet?” I asked him.

“No, but they recognize that time is coming and those things are very expensive,” he told me.

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We aren’t in our 80s, not by a long shot. But we are aging and we have to start thinking realistically about what that will mean.

That’s why we decided to throw caution to the winds and book a June trip to London, not long after I return from a girls’ trip to New York City.

We don’t normally do two overseas trips in a year, and India’s been on our November schedule for a long time. But we both adore London, started talking about it and within two hours had booked a week there.

Life is short.

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This is the first year that I’ve acknowledged that I don’t need furniture that will last longer than 20-25 years. That the next car we buy may be our last. That I’m glad I won’t live long enough to see some trends that seem foolhardy come to fruition.

I’ve turned a corner. I don’t know when and I don’t know how, but it happened.  Thoughts like these have been sneaking up and surprising me.

People younger than I are sick, seriously sick, life-changing sick, the kind of sick which means they’re unlikely to outlive me.

And yet, I have friends older than me, significantly older, who are living not just spry lives but active ones, healthy ones, lives in which they are doing things of substance, writing, teaching, making music. Living independently.

“Life is short,” I find myself telling them, urging them to take those big trips, to throw caution to the wind and spend that money.

They are in fact, older than I and chances are I will outlive them, and miss them terribly when they are gone.

Life is short at this end of it.

Life is so short.

 ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  

When you eat, appreciate every last bite.

Appreciate every last bite of life.

17 comments on “Appreciate every last bite of life
  1. Anonymous says:

    YES..carol you are so right.
    it deserves to be stated often since we don’twant to think aboutit and get mired in trivial things.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Enjoy every bite and wash it all down with a great bottle of wine. If you have enough time, have dessert.

  3. Anonymous says:

    You are right on the mark! Thanks for your words of wisdom and insight.

  4. Anonymous says:

    At some point in your life,(usually late in life) you start thinking about this subject. When you’re young, you’re just too busy living, getting ahead, meeting a spouse, raising hell or whatever. When you reach the point where you’re looking down the other side of the mountain, you start to reflect. I’ve separated my life into three distinct stages: 1)conquering the world 2)Saving the world 3)Understanding my place in the world I’m done with the first two, still working on number3

  5. Word Nerd says:

    Life, even for those who live to be what most of us think of as very old, is indeed short. Many people are careful with their money, yet fritter away their time, a far more precious commodity. Backwards thinking, I believe, and very sad.

  6. Why does it take us so long to get this? Ah….

  7. Susan Cooper says:

    This resonated with me to the core. I have been purging unneeded and unused items from out home and these very thoughts were in my mind as I was doing so. We often put off living life form many different reason (excuses). It’s time to start living. 🙂

  8. I like so much that peaceful thoughts about aging have drifted in and then out of your awareness without causing you anxiety. I’ve had that experience too, and everytime it feels like what I’m supposed to be doing. Thank you, nice post.

  9. Graciel says:

    This subject has been squarely on my mind since before my mother’s death last August. The meaning of material things, what to do with them, the shortness of time, the preciousness.

    The how to let go and live, truly live out loud. Congratulations on London! There will be no regrets.

    xo, from WNY

  10. Joyce Lansky says:

    If you can afford the traveling, go for it. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

  11. So much wisdom in these comments! Thank you for taking the time to share; they definitely made me think. xoxo

  12. It is so odd to age into the face of our mortality. Your post is so poignant and reminds me to appreciate what I have right here, right now.

    I once came home with a memento from the estate sale of my beloved piano teacher.

  13. I face this little fact each day. My comfort is that my treasures are in heaven..and there I will go! YIPPEE!

    I am on a mission to get my life back focused on God, Family, Fun and Making some Money on my blog versus wasting time on the trivial.

  14. Ellen Dolgen says:

    Absolutely you should do something for yourself – plan a big trip, etc. – that you haven’t done yet because you’re right, Life IS too short for us to put off what makes us happier – and healthier! – in this life! Way to go!

  15. Haralee says:

    We must share brain waves! My husband and I both turned 60 this year. For his birthday we bought a new mattress and for mine a new loveseat. They both have a 20 year warranty. Who needs longer than that was our reply!

  16. It’s very difficult for most people to grasp just how short life is until something happens very close to home. It’s a subject I’ve thought about often, and I have tried for the most part, to do my best to not take time or people for granted. My sister passed away suddenly, last August. She was only 31 and had two young children.For me, the realization of how precious and short life is, couldn’t hit any closer.

  17. Amen to all of it. I decided yesterday this very thing. Cool that you echoed and wrote this so eloquently. Love!

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