Aging Gratefully

12_29_11.JPGToday is my birthday. I am 42 years old, three years older than Phil was when he died six years ago (crazy to think he would be 46 right now!). My first birthday without him I remember wishing time could just stand still. I didn't want to age without him;I didn't want to celebrate being alive with birthday songs and presents; and I didn't want to continue on a forward path that moved away from the life I loved with Phil. Overall, December 29, 2005 was not my best birthday.

Truthfully, finding a way to appreciate the opportunity to live another year took some time. I moved from being down right pissed off about my repeating birthdays to being a bit ambivalent about the passing of time to finally accepting the fact that until my number is called my job is to seize the day.

Seizing the day is a broad concept that, for me, includes both taking as many opportunities for adventures as possible, and also taking time to cuddle a baby without looking at the clock. When I am living my best life I say what I mean, and I follow those words with actions. Making the most of the time I am given is a goal that is never far from my mind, and is firmly planted in my heart, because I know that one person can make a difference. Phil taught me that. But I didn't know how huge his influence on me was, until it was too late to tell him. I try to remember that the words I use may become an enduring memory for someone I care about, and I try very hard to speak words of both praise and gratitude. I may have only one chance to utter them. Time is something I no longer take for granted.

In fact, time is now something I relish in ways large and small...I love giggling with my kids, and running with good friends. I've discovered that Alaska has rain forests, and that Texas is actually huge. I've both cried, and laughed uproariously, with widowed people from all walks of life. I've witnessed both births and deaths and found them both to be an amazing honor. Over the past six years I walked on beaches on the opposite side of the earth from my home, hiked in majestic mountains, and looked over my shoulder for bears while trekking through the above mentioned rain forests. I spent New Year's Eve in New York City, and have driven alone on country roads from Ohio to Indiana. I've walked with friends through cancer, divorce, the loss of a home, and the pain of losing a baby. I have not been just an observer of life, I have rolled my sleeves up and jumped in with two feet time and time again. Because life is short. You and I know that better than most. So now I choose not to waste a single day that I could be making a difference.

President Abraham Lincoln suffered through the deaths of three of his four children, and was well known to be prone to depression. Having come through one particularly dark period, a good friend told Mr. Lincoln that he had been afraid his despair would swallow him whole. President Lincoln responded:

"I have an irrepressible desire to live until I can be assured that the world is a little better for my having lived in it."

Cheers to another year full of opportunities to improve the world, one small bit at a time. 


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