My husband faced the deterioration of his body and the inevitability of his impending death (yes we all know we’re going to die sometime but it’s different when you know it’s sometime soon). Somehow he maintained his grace, gratitude, and goodwill. I think these lessons from Larry we can all apply at this time of world chaos.
Everything became unpredictable to him, from the daily ability to hold a spoon, to the ability to draw an easy breath. And now everything is becoming unpredictable to us, from where we can go, to wondering if we’ll have money to survive, to searching for a store selling toilet paper. Somehow Larry learned how to accept whatever came that day, without giving up, without wasting energy mentally fighting it and without complaining.
We have to accept, and not give up, but not waste energy wishing what is happening isn’t happening. Because it is. And really stop complaining about being asked to stay home so as to save lives of others more vulnerable.
Larry found a way to continue to appreciate life in an increasingly small “lifespace,” as international, then local travel, then even walking became impossible. The beach was a favorite place to relax and regroup, first playing frisbee or paddle ball, then just walking, then just sitting and enjoying the water. When he could no longer navigate the sand, we’d just drive to the water and sit in the car and enjoy the view.
Now, our collective lifespace seems to be shrinking rapidly – my daughter lives in one of the California counties that needs to “shelter in place.” Just like Larry, we have no choice, other than how we react. We can rant about it and wish it weren’t so, or we can find ways to live with it, and appreciate life in whatever way we can experience it.
Over time, Larry lost the predictable schedule of daily work, and as many retirees find, no longer knew the days of the week by the activities on his calendar. But in its place a different rhythm took over – a rhythm that became both comforting (and sometimes annoying). It was the varied but predictable rhythm of physical exercises, voice exercises, and lung treatments.
We are rapidly losing our predictable schedules and it’s hard to adjust. We need to rapidly put new rhythms in place, creating some variety and predictability for ourselves, because who else will do it for us?
Larry was open about his problems and in his acceptance of his vulnerability, he drew people to him. He was always grateful for the help he received, even though he didn’t want to be in the position of needing help. He always wanted to help others, and worked on helping family members even in his last year. When he couldn’t speak much, he continued to communicate and show he cared about others with a few words or a smile.
This is perhaps the most important of all the lessons from Larry. We need to be open about how vulnerable we feel – honest with ourselves and each other. And we need to communicate and show we care, help others, and be grateful for one another.
We’re all in this together. Unlike Larry, we will survive. Let’s pay attention to these lessons from Larry, his gift to us, and let’s help each other survive with grace, gratitude, and goodwill.