I moderate a Yahoo group for local mothers. We have almost 3,500 members. It is a safe place (as ‘safe’ as any Internet space can be) for mothers to get parenting advice, sell gently used items, plan meet-ups, ask for referrals or make recommendations. It’s a closed group and membership is by referral of a current member. In that way, it is a close-knit group because everyone knows at least one other person. We don’t allow advertising or self-promotion so it keeps the integrity of the group.
Last week, the husband of one of our members, using his wife’s email address, posted her funeral information. Obviously, he’d gone through her contacts and included our group in those he reached out to. I immediately recognized her name, even though she hadn’t posted in over a year. She was my age, 47, and has a 5 year old daughter. She died, suddenly and without warning, of an aortic rupture. Even though I had never met her, news of her death has clung to me. I think of her multiple times a day. I think of her beloved husband and young daughter, navigating the newness of their lives without her. And, of course, I think of her in relation to myself. She was my age. She began her day, her last day alive, in much the same way we all do, getting out of bed, getting to the routines of the day, moving through her life. And, with one fatal breath, her life was over.
It brings into sharp focus the way I try to walk the tightrope of my life, an equal measure of living in the present and planning for the future. I am a bit of a hedonist in that I want what I want and if it is feasible, try not to deny myself many things. This is a carry-over from the death of my brother. He only lived 16 1/2 years and his life, cut so short, made a huge impression on me in terms of how I lived my own. As a grown-up, I am no longer impulsive and I am hyper-conscious of our consumerism and feel a sense of diligence to reduce our foot print. We do a lot toward that end, but I sometimes wonder if I am being penny wise and pound foolish.
At the same time that I am frugal in the present, I am thoughtful about the future. We own our home, we have a piece of income property, we have 529 accounts for both boys, we have savings. I am frugal, always looking for THE best deal on anything we purchase from a tooth brush to new appliances. With only my husband’s income and the income from the rental property to support us, we have delayed many things: painting the exterior of the house; adding a bathroom to the garage turned studio; fixing the steep incline of our driveway; adding shelving to the kitchen; adding a door to the boys’ hallway; getting a new roof; upgrading the a/c unit which is too small for the square footage of this house; getting a new car; upgrading the boys’ shared closet.
But, Suzanne’s death is a stark reminder that anything can happen and life is meant to be lived and not only saved for living. Yes, we absolutely must have a savings and be prudent with our finances so that we can continue to live in this high cost state and provide for ourselves and our children. The last vacation we took was in 2010 and it’s likely it will be another 3 years before we do so again. But, where things are going to immediately improve our lives perhaps it is time to act vs wait.
I try, try, try, try, try to always be present with my boys. As the CEO of our home, there is much to be done as there is with any parent. And, I consider myself very organized (even if weekly meal planning still eludes me), and can get a lot done in a short period of time. I can also multi-task well, which allows for the consolidation of tasks. Even still, there are times during the day, where I have to put baby on his activity mat to pay a bill I forgot (like the tuition to my older son’s new school, yeah, that one). Household duties/chores/errands must get done and as I did with my older son, I involve baby in their doing as much as I can.
I want the memories of their childhood to first be that ‘my mom was always there’. Although I didn’t feel that way directly about my parents, I certainly did about my grandparents. A pervading feeling was that they were always there. They didn’t play with us or engage us like I do my sons, but I was never alone, always surrounded by family, and always included in the goings-on.
I think of Suzanne’s young daughter, whose memories of her mother were likely just forming and wonder how they will be shaped by others filling in the blanks as she grows, keeping her mother’s memory alive. And, I am here, half-way through my life, universe willing, and I have the hourly and daily opportunity to imprint myself on my sons.
I’m not sure where this is going; I’m just so moved by the death of this stranger. I don’t want the balance of our lives to be tipped in favor of the future when there are no guarantees of it, yet the present can’t be a spending free-for-all , either.
I think of Suzanne’s plans for her life, for her family, for her daughter. How differently would any of us lead our lives if we actually knew our expiration date?
“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”