Friday, February 27, 2009

Count Your Blessings

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" ... a line from the Bible, but one that applies for several people I know right now.

For my eighth brother, AZ, as he mourns the death of his aunt.

For my buddy Bob, as he mourns the loss of his close friend and mentor.

For my neighbor, who mourns the sudden death of her son.

For my cousins, as they mourn the loss of their father.

Blessings, be they from a deity or any other source, are rich when received, and have value far beyond mere mortal measure.

I often end many of my blog posts by saying that I know that I am richly blessed, and I further state: "life is short...".

You never really know when someone you love may no longer be a physical part of your life. I know that. I have experienced that. Both in long, lingering departures from life, as well as in suddenness.

I think all of these feelings were made much more apparent to me as I took a year of my life to care for my beloved Uncle Charlie in the winter of his life. He was old. He knew he was dying. He didn't want to have his life prolonged artificially, because he knew that doing so would bring pain and anguish to those who loved him. He knew that he would die, sooner than later. He taught me to appreciate that death is a part of life, and that while alive, one should live it as fully as one can.

My partner and I spent a year enjoying Charlie's "lasts." His last live lobster boil, his last Maryland crab feast, his last dinner at a restaurant, his last pasta con sarde, his last bet on a horse race, his last rant about how horrible President "W" and his evil Deputy VP were, his last celebration of my having an article published on the front OpEd page of the Washington Post, his last visit with his doctor, our last long stroll around his community as I wheeled him along in his wheelchair, his last note to his beloved wife. I was there for his last breath on this Earth, and was the last person he saw.

Uncle Charlie taught me that there is dignity and honor in death. He taught me that I could be sad, but also be happy at the same time. And while I do miss him, I am happy beyond words that I could be with him to learn that lesson first-hand.

I count my blessings each and every day. I know how richly blessed I am. I have a job I love at an employer that is fair and well-respected. I have a caring and supportive partner who is my rock and my foundation. A loving, warm, huge and raucous family, who accept me as I am -- just "little bother" me. Close, close friends, like my "eighth brother", AZ, evil twin Clay, and those who I grew up with -- Robert, Richard, Skip, Roberta, Laura, Mike... others. A community of neighbors, colleagues, collaborators, "elder buds," activists, and on and on -- all of whom compose the fabric of my life.

My fabric is woven of thick and durable fibers. These fibers are good people. There are times I wrap myself in that fabric, to smell the scents, to feel the warmth, to know I am loved. I am doing that now, as you read this.

I am, after all, a humble man. A man of "middle means." I am no saint. I am not perfect. I still have a lot to learn.

But one thing I have learned, granted by the greatest gift that my Uncle could have given to me, is to know this one important thing: life is short. Love those you love -- hard! Scream from the mountaintops your appreciation! Show your support. Cheer on your team. Do the little things that show you care.

Count your blessings. After all, life is short.

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