That funny thing in the back of my head kicked in. It’s that time of the year - I looked up the date. Today would have been my Dad’s ninety-first birthday. It’s been twelve years since his death and ten years since my Mom’s. I join the ranks of those in the world who are old enough or unfortunate enough to remember a death date.
Looking back on someone’s life is a funny thing. What you mostly recall is how you did not properly appreciate that person when they were alive. That, and how little we make our own precious time count toward some kind of purpose that will live on after us. Someone dying begs the question: what did their life mean?
I had plenty of times in my life where I disagreed with my parents’ worldview for one reason or another. I thought I knew better. My parents were out of date. And yet… years down the road everything their lives were about comes into a different perspective. Perhaps theirs were more innocent times, or maybe not. They had the depression and the war as a foundational reality check for their world. We did not have any such life-altering event until COVID-19 happened along. We grew in a state of false security and didn’t set a high value on that vast cultural inheritance we have largely squandered.
So I will put it on myself as a worthy exercise, to remember today, if only one from 365 is enough. It’s an act of fealty to remember someone, and also an act of gratitude, to recall all those selfless things done on your behalf that you took for granted.
I don’t mean to say that my parents were always right, but their tone was on the right track. The verities in their worldview were an inoculation against falsehood and deceit, and perhaps a bastion of democracy. The basic things they loved and lived for were worthy. They worked hard. They did not waste their time here, I think. Today, institutions we thought would last forever are failing before out very eyes and looking to what will last, we alway seem to come back to family as the bedrock of all that is good in the world. I will have to honour my own commitments to my wife and to my own kids. They are my highest duty at present, and not to be taken lightly.
Through the various ins and outs of life, your parents always cheer for you. You couldn’t buy that kind of loyalty for money and it is noticeably absent when gone. Family is everything. There is no other relation in the world which stretches as far across the field of time and distance. Many fellow travellers bite the dust along the way even though it seemed they would make the distance. We are carrying precious fire from one generation to the next. To lose faith is a huge miss, if It means that after all the dollar accounting is done with, there is no intangible on the ledger to pass on. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate that it would be nice to live for something that will last.
Real life lessons - the kind that stick - are passed on in the living itself. I don’t often recall what my parents said exactly about this and that, but I do know how they lived. The trajectory of their lives was simple and intended toward something worthwhile at the end of it all. I am profoundly grateful for the gift of family. While I cannot hear the voice of my parents speaking out loud, I can hear them loud and clear inside my own head and that is all the guidance I need, going forward - the kind which neither moths nor rust can destroy.