Monthly Archives: October 2016

Carpe Diem

david-for-paperWell I suppose I should rename my blog to a quarterly newsletter as the past few months might reflect that change in pace. But with fall in the air and grandchildren back in school, I find myself sitting at my computer. Hoping to return to at least a monthly entry.

The past year has been a bit of a blur to be honest. Both my mother and my brother died over the last twelve or so months, my brother six weeks ago. Losing your mother at 92 is life changing but a bit expected. Losing a sibling is another thing altogether. Especially this sibling.

David was a true individual.  True to himself and his own set of values. He spent everyday of his life with a lust for learning, living and taking it all in at his own pace. He didn’t waste a second of his life being bored. Carl Jung said, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” It was as though David was born with that understanding and enjoyed the freedom to be who he was meant to be, at birth, by the stars, every day he lived.

Nothing he loved more than bantering with friends and family. He was witty with an uncanny ability to tell a story and laugh at himself as easily as the situation. He was entertaining and easily entertained by a broad spectrum of interests. A gifted English literature scholar, he was often voted Professor of the Year.

He was a romantic who saw the world in soft focus as well as full of truths and ironies. He could be a crusty curmudgeon who covered a soft and sentimental heart.  Never simple, often complicated, being around my brother was an adventure. Whether telling a story or living it, he pulled you in for the ride.

And ride we did over the past year.  My husband called it his farewell tour. David loved water. So we traveled to oceans and lakes for holidays and getaways.  We always had something on the calendar to look forward to.

David approached death as he did most other things. Head on.  Early in his diagnosis, when we all had this faint but persistent hope that the doctors were mistaken, we sat on my sister’s front porch and planned his funeral. Actually, he planned his funeral and I wrote his obituary.  I even read what I wrote and he listened and smiled. And added a line.

His memorial service was as individual as my brother including his love of literature as well as Doo-Wop music. A secular gathering, we had five songs and five poems. Starting with A. E. Housman’s  Loveliest of Trees followed by Maurice Williams’s 50’s single, Stay, profound simply in its title, we ended with the Ronettes singing Be My Baby. With Pavarotti and Shakespeare thrown in the middle for good measure. There was some dancing, some clapping, some tears and laugher. The event celebrated the life and personality of my one-of-a-kind brother.

David had an unflinching distain for any sort of authority.

He fought traffic cops, dress codes, deans, job interviewers, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, anyone who told him “no.” But death was an authority he could not defy.  But damn if he didn’t do an incredible job of trying.  When they gave him six months to live, he lived fourteen.  When they warned of dramatic side effects of treatment, he would have none of it.

He took his prognosis with a grace and dignity I am not sure I possess, but he certainly showed me how it is done. Part of his stoicism, resignation was that he knew, from the first test, that 50 years of smoking his Vantage Blues had brought him to this moment. But far beyond that, he dove in, took what was prescribed and with every fiber in his being, lived every second he had left. And lived it fully.

No self pity. No complaining. No “what ifs.”  Only “what nows.”

And he “nowed” the hell out of every breath he took until his last. Bald and too thin, he never lost his sass.  His sly grin, his sense of humor, his love of the moment always shone through.

Every nurse who cared for him was a little in love with him. He never lost “it.”

That intangible, beautiful, sometimes frustrating, always intriguing thing that was David.

I only heard him utter one sentence of sadness about his plight. We were sitting on the beach in Florida, a cloudless cerulean sky on the horizon and sweet, sea breezes rustling the palms. He said, looking outward not at me, “It’s much easier to think of dying in the bleakness of winter than it is at a moment like this.”

I miss him.  I miss him every day.  But he gave me something.  Something huge. He reminded me that life is to be lived, not worried about, over-analyzed and most importantly, it is not to be lived on someone else’s terms.

You only get this one chance.  One try at this living thing. And I am working on a shift.

A carpe diem shift.  More salt water in my hair.  No guilt for staying up too late to watch Dirty Dancing one more time on Bravo. Pushing on when fear holds me back.

Living as the authentic person I was born to be, the one I was meant to be.

I want to find her.  And live her unafraid so that when I come to my last breath, I can close my eyes and see all that I did, loved, dreamed of and hoped for. I want a parade of beautiful memories. Opportunities embraced. Failures accepted.

A life of carpe diem.