This is one of the Matron's earliest posts, before she completely morphed into her third person self:
My mother and stepfather in-law are 75 and 82. They go to a funeral every week. Memorials and wakes are their primary social junket. After the service, they eat ham or egg-salad sandwiches and sip coffee. These gatherings exist in a unique temporal dimension: conversation shifts seamlessly between past and present, potent and trivial. They gossip. They decry the cost of gas and talk about whose grandchild appears headed down the worst road. They fall back fifty years to wedding nights, births, and communions. Disappointment and betrayals get yet another look. Really, I can't imagine (fill in the blank) is gone. Who makes the better rhubarb crisp? Then they pick up their plates and go home.
Today I put our sweet dog, Thurston's, ashes in their new box and set them on the long smooth shelf next to my father's. I watch both boxes and think about my shelf, filling up.
The Matron's stepfather-in-law is in a hospital, facing his own death from today's diagnosis of bile duct cancer -- a day, a week, a few months. He is yellow like a dandelion.
Stepfather-in-Law: "You know, doc, what I want?"
Matron: "I love how you always call me doc. What?"
SFIL: "To sit on my glass porch and watch the rain. Just one more time. Wow. All that time sure went fast, doc."
The Matron and Rainy just had a similar conversation. Now, you may also remember that the Matron had a recent funk-- all projectile Fruedian and cursing the publishing gods for skipping over her when they handed out those prizes, etc., etc. etc. Wanting more out of life, feeling competitive, all that.
Driving home from the hospital, half of her was with her mother/father-in-law, fretting about the distinct fears and complexities they will each be facing. But! The other half of the Matronly mind was, of course, centered on HER and how she's handling whatever life span she herself has been given.
She was trying to find some key, some common thread in the lives of those she admires and, sadly, sometimes envies and covets: the surgeon friend, the successful writer, the mother of five who homeschools the greatest kids and is happy, to boot. The vocation doesn't matter, it's how successfully (and with what passion) the endeavor unfolds.
As she looked at her own self with ferocious honesty -- the kind of honesty that death brings -- she understood that the people she admired were using their gifts at 100% capacity. They were nearly always the best they could be, in all ways, all the time. Nearly.
And the Matron? You guessed it. Ferocious honesty requires: she isn't really using her gifts. Not by a long shot. Not yet.
Thankfully, there is no end to her optimism (one gift she makes full use of), which makes life -- that precious and terminal condition -- exciting.
Are you using your gifts? Do you even know what they are? This isn't necessarily a comment prod, but something she hopes you take away as encouragement and hope, for yourself and your own lifespan.