I lost a man last week. And it’s not like, you know, I lost a piece of jewellery, it might turn up again. No, he’s gone. He won’t be back.
You could say, well he was 80 after all. He had a good long life. And he was 80 and he did have a good long life, but when you really get assessing the length of a life perhaps you’ll agree with what a friend of mine said after Hugh died at 46 and I complained he’d been robbed of the last half of his life.
“Robbed?” Dick said from behind his bar. “Robbed? Hell, we all get robbed! What’s 46 years, what’s 80, what’s 100, in the grand scheme of things?”
So true. I guess we should flip it, huh? Instead of robbery, look at the gift we are given. The fleeting gift of life. A glimpse into multitudinous personal realities for various lengths of time.
I always loved the early part of that movie City of Angels, where the angel, played by Nicholas Cage, takes the hand of a little girl who is dying and says, “What was your favourite thing?”
“Pajamas,” she says. And she’s wearing a cozy onesie and she pronounces it “pajahmas” and, despite the frantic sobs of her mother, you feel somewhat soothed about dying.
What is your favourite thing, about life?
The 80-year-old man who I lost? His favourite thing was horses. He could work, play, train, race, raise, read about, watch, analyse horses 24/7. He was passionate about them.
It’s important to be passionate about something, yes? I mean, you can be passionate about money, but it’s cold and hard and dirty and sometimes, when you really think about it, what is it exactly? I just spent all of that time in the Philippines where thousands of Pesos went in and out of my wallet and I had to use my calculator to get a grip on what things cost and this foreign money felt somewhat like gambling chips to me. I couldn’t attach emotion to it, it was just a means to an end.
There have been lots of happiness studies done and it’s true, a certain amount of money makes a person happy. But, once survival is taken care of and a person has what they need, and then a good dollop of what they want, 100% more money wouldn’t make that person 100% happier.
I’m lucky in that I have many passions. I love, love, love dancing and I get to do that many times a week by teaching Jazzercise. I love the current music we listen to, the way we move our bodies, the happy people who work out with me and the sense of community it gives me.
I also love words. And there are so very many to choose from! Which means there are so many ways to put them together to evoke emotion.
Passion. Seek it out. Let it be your grand companion through this short life. It may be singular and constant, like it was for my lost man, or it may be varied and constantly evolving, but stoke that fire, always.
And if you do, when you breathe your last breath, as the man – a father to me really – did last week, when the angel leads you away you can say, with conviction, “My favourite thing about the gift of life was . . .”