From the moment we wail into this world there is an ‘expiration date’ atop our head. Perhaps it’s stamped invisibly to the bottom of our baby wrinkled feet. Exposed and bittersweet, this fact of life slapped me in the face yesterday, leaving a white fingered imprint across my rose, blushed cheek. In some small way, I might think of this as a “Chronic Condition” to be lived with until my dying day.
While at a family gathering, in arms still young with muscles strong, my sons held sleeping newborns while toddlers ran to play and jump and sing. Older, ‘little’ ones giggled at Grandpa’s silly faces while striving for his special attention. Sitting in her cushioned seat was my great-great aunt with vision all but gone together with wrinkles much like an infant’s first.
Looking about the room of celebration for my son’s birthday together with my aunt’s visit here, the whole of our lifetimes existed in that space..that single place. Soon, the Senior Menu was placed in front of me. Gathered around the wooden, weathered table were my sons still so young and strong. So proud. There were babies in the womb, a precious toddler of two, an infant barely born and another learning first steps, too! And through my arm, my beloved elderly one with kind words full of wonder.
Soon the love of family chaos erupted over a brunch of steaming food on restaurant plates of white trimmed in navy blue. My aunt sat next to me where I held her withered hand in order to ease any anxiety. In her ear, a small hearing-aid had been placed. Slowly, I described the location of her yellow scrambled eggs and slice of dry brown toast with fresh banana slices on the side. She eats like a bird, but ‘sings’ like an A cappella choir.
Although it was difficult for my aunt to see, she enjoyed the many sounds of newness. How delighted she was to hear the noises of little ones. Soothing, short panting puffs of breathing infants…in and out. “Sleeping like angels in heaven at night,” she later said. Across the table, toddler Gracie, sang nursery songs in silly rhyme….”Five Little Monkeys Jumping on My Bed.” Clicking her tongue, the wee moppet head of bouncing curls clearly pronounced my aunt’s name for the very first time, G.R.E.A.T.- G.R.E.A.T……. A.U.N. T. S.H.I. R.L.E.Y. And, baby Briella, giggeled aloud with enormous smiles of laughter while popping chubby fists of squiggly yellow into her drooling mouth.
Later, in the quiet of the evening, my aunt began to speak of dear lost loved ones. She is the last of her eight siblings. Many of which she nursed before they passed on into the world of our next. She spoke of her beliefs on pain before death, why God has His ways and what they meant to her. Clearly, her long number of years upon this earth and inevitable mortality was on her mind.
Life…..a treasured gift never to be taken for granted. For, each one of us has an expiration date.