HOPE AND CERTAINTY
On my first day as a freshman at Boston University, I received a phone call from my sister. She had called to say that our beloved Uncle Irv, who had lived next door to us all our lives, had suddenly died. He was jogging in the park, and he suddenly collapsed and never regained consciousness. We were all in a state of shock, but later when I reflected on it, I could find some sort of an explanation. Although only in his late forties, our uncle had been a heart patient already. He walked around with nitroglycerin in his pocket. We all told ourselves that there was a “reason”.
Then yesterday I received another call from my sister. Our cousin’s husband had collapsed and died while jogging – “Just like Uncle Irv”! I exclaimed. But I found out later that Doug, only 57, had been in top condition – that in fact he was a marathon runner. It made no sense to me or to anyone else. So this time, the shock of the sudden loss was combined with the shock of having absolutely no idea as to why this had happened.
My husband and I are what some might call health fanatics. We walk in the hills every day. We are vegetarians. We take supplements religiously. I take yoga. We both hope to live to a ripe old age. But when something like this happens, it makes us realize how very little control (if any) we have over our lives. There is some other force at work that doesn’t care one fig whether we walk, run, or sit in front of the TV all day eating bon-bons. And while we can raise our odds for a healthy life, there are too many variables we simply can’t control.
It makes me think, more than ever, how precious and fragile our lives really are. All I can do is treat each day as a gift. We get caught up in so many details, that sometimes it’s hard to remember the “big picture”. But that’s human nature. It’s too hard to stay in touch with our vulnerability. After all, a little denial is a healthy thing.
As for living to be centenarians – We have every reason to hope. Art and I have “good peasant stock” in our favor and strong spirits. But whatever the future may hold for us, I will try to remember to enjoy the here and now. That’s the only thing that is certain.
© 2005, Robin Munson