I Hope I’m Not Ready
article by Meredith McKinnie
A few days before Christmas, I attended a funeral. My good friend’s father had died suddenly, and I was heartbroken for my friend. He wasn’t ready. We rarely are, and though he put on a brave face, the flood of emotion was waiting to trickle down his face the moment his responsibilities subsided, once the audience was gone. He’s always there for other people, and the amount of love and presence for his dad surprised him. We are always surprised when people show up, and they did, in droves.
The moment for me came shortly after Boyfriend and I had taken our seats on the pew among people we didn’t know to pay respect to a man we’d never met. I looked down at the program and saw the man was 66…he was only 66. In my twenties, 66 seemed old, but not anymore. The closer I creep to it, the younger it seems. And sitting during that service hearing about the life of a father, I couldn’t help but think of my own. My dad is 68. He’s two years older than this man we were here to bury, and I realized I wasn’t anymore ready than my friend was, hadn’t even pondered the mortality of my parents. They had always been there, and I couldn’t fathom my world if they weren’t.
But the reality is, short of something happening to me, some day they will not be there. I hope I’m not ready. When Mamaw died, we were all ready, ready for her to no longer suffer. I don’t want that for my parents. I hope they, and I, are taken by surprise. Waiting for death is so agonizing, tiresome, and then you feel guilty for feeling tired, as if you don’t deserve to. It’s someone else’s ending; the least you can do is endure it. But you still feel tired, and even guiltier when the news sends a sense of peace, because not only their suffering is over, but so is yours.
Ironically, a few months ago my mother mentioned a class she was attending about outlining her estate. I listened, but it didn’t hit home. It didn’t rattle me that what she was saying would only take affect once she was gone. It should have, but it didn’t. But at a funeral of a man like my father, a man younger than my father, who left behind a child, an adult child like me, it finally did. When did I become an adult? When did my parents get older? Dad has a twitch in his knee that sometimes causes him to walk with a slight limp, but he’s still my dad. I don’t see him as old. I still think if he and Mom lined up in the street and raced, like they did once when we were kids, that he would still surprise us all and beat her. But he wouldn’t, not anymore. My mom always complains of the discolored skin and one finger that has started to take a shape of its own. It drives her crazy. We chuckle when she holds it up, not registering the physical reminders of what is happening in front of our eyes. It’s easier to not talk about it, or acknowledge it, or worse, ponder what it would mean for us.
I don’t want to smother my parents, because their mortality is on my mind. I don’t want to dwell on what could happen because of a number and not soak up the moments unclouded by the idea of them one day ending. It’s just one of life’s ironic reminders that our days are numbered. Witnessing my friend come to terms with never seeing his father again is what it takes to appreciate mine. It seems unfair, as if he must suffer, so I can be reminded to pay more attention. And I will. I will take this heartbreaking reminder to look them in face, to give them my undivided, to practice patience and love and understanding. It’s what I should always do with the people, who have given so much to me, but I will try even harder. I will try for them, for me, and especially for my friend, who will never again have the chance.