As I get older, I have thought about my time on this planet coming to a close more often than when I was younger.
Some of the “friends” I made have been waiting for that for a number of years. I suppose it depends, like most things, on your point of view. To say that I have been somewhat insulated from death would be fair. My grandmother lived to be 99. My grandfather had black lung disease for most of his life, yet he lived to be 89. My mom still walks to the grocery store every day as her 80th birthday approaches.
This isn’t to say there hasn’t been heartache. My high school days were tough. Shortly after I moved to Indiana from Colorado, I learned that my fifth-grade girlfriend — you know the one where you sent the note “Will you go out with me? Circle yes or no” — was killed in an off-road accident.
She lived to be only 17. Before the grieving could stop for her, another member of that same class, actually three in total, were all killed when the car they were in left the road. They lived to be only 18. The following summer another friend, one year older than me, was killed while returning home through the mountain passes when he missed a curve. He was only 19.
All told, five people lost their lives before they advanced out of their teens in a town of only 1,500 at a high school whose entire student body was only about 190.
Things were essentially the same while in Indiana. I lost one classmate, horrifically, to murder. She was only 17. A few short years later, my wife-to-be lost her father. He was also our pastor, so this was exponentially sad. That same week, one of my best friends in high school also lost her father. They were both only 38.
This isn’t meant to be a chronological detail of my life. Rather, the part that strikes hardest is the natural order of events. Humans, as sentient beings, have the duty of caring for progeny that is one of the longest on the entire planet. Because of this lengthy time span, it can be fraught with issues. Some of these issues include loss of young life that upsets the natural order of things. At early stages in life, parents are not supposed to outlive their offspring. It upsets families, shakes us to our core, and to the family members deeply affected, presumably makes them wonder if being sentient is worth it.
From a parent’s perspective, there is too much at stake. There are too many unanswered questions, too many hopes and too many dreams that will never be fulfilled. There always has been and always will be too much heartache. As parents, all we can do is give the next generation the training and tools that evolution has and continues to teach us.
Nature will still intercede as she always has, but armed with the knowledge that we have and the resources that we continue to develop, we can mitigate some, if not all, of the heartache. We go forth remembering the Dawns, Christys, Allens, Mindys, Shanes, Mikes and Larrys of the world and think of them daily.
I have always told my boys that if they die before me, I’ll kill them. I could not handle a disruption in the natural order of things. I suspect not many can.