Both of my parents passed away this summer. They lived good lives and made it into their 80s, but it was still a shock to lose them so close together. It is a surreal experience to realize that this constant in your life doesn’t exist anymore. They were always only a phone call away, even if I didn’t make the call perhaps as often as I should have.
Families are complicated, as are relationships with your parents. I remember one of my friends joking that I was still thousands of dollars of therapy away from figuring out why I always seemed to feel like a little kid around my parents. Overall I think I did a pretty good job of keeping in touch with my folks as their health deteriorated over the last few years. However, it is all just so final (religious beliefs aside). They are gone and I can’t help but miss them. Going through their things is a sobering process that causes me to muse about existence. Does life come down to a few objects left behind? I would prefer to think of it as a legacy of memories held by your friends and family.
My mother had a chronic connective tissue disease that slowly altered her body and restricted her mobility. I am sure she was always in some degree of discomfort, but she never complained. I will remember her stoic practicality as she directed the family’s business from her recliner in the living room. My jokester father, ever the life of the party, filled every room with good humor even as his dementia progressed. I would like to think that I am a nice mix of practicality and jokester, but that is for others to judge. I can only hope that I have passed some good traits onto my children and grandchildren and that they hold fond memories of me in their hearts.
I am filled with sadness, which I am assured fades with time, but this experience caused me to reflect on birth, death, and the contributions we make in between. I want to try to make the world a better place in the time I have left. I want to give more of myself and build better relationships with those important to me so that their memories of me are good ones. I want to take better care of my patients and make their lives just a little bit better. I am going to strive to be a better man, husband, father, grandfather, physician, and more as losing my parents so close together has been a wakeup call. It is easy to fall for the illusion of unlimited future days, but this summer has been a stark reminder that time waits for no one.
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