As of this writing I am 61 years old in chronology. But I am not an isolated, chronological, numerical, statistic. I am 61 and I am also 4, and 12, 15, and 23, and 31 and 45 and…and…and…If we lose any part of ourselves we are thereby diminished. If I cannot be 13 and 61 simultaneously, part of me has been taken away.
I’ve always thought it important to look past the current age a person is at and see them at other ages. Just because we can’t stop time from pushing us along to our next birthday, doesn’t mean we don’t know just how it is to be 13 or 17 or 30.
So, sometimes if I see a homeless person on the train, I think about how they were once someone’s infant child- cute and giggly. And when I see an old woman in a nursing home, I imagine her as a young woman with a life a lot like mine.
Madeline L’engle expresses this idea much better than I can:
I think this whole idea just reinforces the notion that the soul was not meant to be bound by time. It can’t be cornered into one age or even decade- because it’s always growing, evolving, but in its essence- exactly the same.
There are so many layers to grief, each searing in its own way. As I began this bereavement- I found I had much to mourn- not just the current Dan and Jul- but the Dan and Jul who met at 22 and 23 years old- the Dan and Jul at 25 and 26 and at 27 and 28 when we married- and at 30, and 32 when Audrey was born.
And it goes further back too- I grieve for myself as a young girl waiting for the “one.” I grieve for myself in college praying for that musical guy.
And then it goes forward. And I grieve for myself as a woman of 40 and 50 and 60. I grieve and I mourn because I will never see you grow older than 33 years old. I will be in love with a 33 year old for my whole life- however long that may be. I am so very sad- I knew you would grow old so gracefully, so handsomely- with such distinction.
I want to tell those two- the Korean guy and the white girl meeting at the gates of Columbia- wait! Something horrible is going to happen. I want to tell the two making out in the car- or by the bus station- wait! This is not going to end well. I want to tell them, living in their small Brooklyn apartment worrying so much about life and career- Don’t worry so much! There is not much time left!