Sunday, November 4, 2018

I am just a self-aware speck of dust in the universe and nobody else cares!

I have not written a lot this last month and that despite a correction in the stock market.  But life has been busy.  The workload at my business has picked up. Hurray, we’re making money!  But will it be enough?  The construction of my new residence is progressing at a steady clip. Hurray.  Then the phone call from Holland.  "Hi son, I want you to know that I have a stiff back and my body is hurting." Nothing new for a 93-year-old man. But he doesn’t sound as confident as usual.  A few days later: “The doctor tells me that a major artery in my underbelly is heavily swollen. If it bursts, then I am gone (aneurysma).  I am too old for an operation.  I tell you more after the next doctor’s visit.”   I don’t hear anything for a week.  My sister and brother-in-law have driven him to the doctor. No news. Our Sunday Skype approaches – nothing.

I call my sister.  Yes, it is bad. The doctor says that my Dad doesn’t want the operation and the doctor feels the operation risk is higher than doing nothing. I talk to my Dad – just a few minutes.  He wants euthanasia. All his brothers, sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law and his life-long friends have gone before him. He is in pain and … he knows his life is over. Why suffer pain without hope?  For what? Yes it is his time to say ‘goodbye’ to this world.  The reality of what he says is crashing home. He, who was always there, will no longer be there. My guide to growing old will be gone.  Worse, some of my sisters who live not an hour's drive away from him, took him thus for granted, they haven’t seen him for over a year!  And they were not even aware of what is going on?  Does it matter? 

Does it matter that the man who brought you into this world (together with your earlier departed mother) some 65 years ago; does the family matter which you left some 45 years ago for another continent? The family you raised since then and your own life as an empty nester and all the friends you made and lost touch with over the past decades – does it matter?  Is this the curse of longevity?  Do we loose our humanity, do we lose our relations with the greatest heroes in our lives: Mommy and Daddy?  “Mommy and Daddy” reduced to a shadow of their former selves in a land far-far away? Or should I say in a time long-long ago? 

If we live so long that our marriages don’t last until death do us part; if we live so long that our childhood heroes disappear in the fog of time then what is the meaning of our lives? Friends come and go. Our children come and go and may even have forgotten about us, their parents from decades past. What is the meaning of legacy?  My Dad started a store in sporting goods. The proceeds paid for my and my sisters upbringing, for our family vacations and for support when we were young adults. Most knew of this store in our hometown of 170,000 or so. He ran it for over 30 years.   Today  hardly anyone remembers the store. There was no successor. My father made a great sacrifice by telling me that I should first have a career of my own and only if I then still wanted to, I could take over the store.  His life work and he did not want to force it on me. He refused to take advantage of my naivety. Instead he wanted me to build my own life. Which I did. Parents make those sacrifices for their children – it is normal! Is it? Was it a normal sacrifice for my parents to know that I choose a career that led me away from my homeland?  Was it normal that their grand children from Canada couldn’t even converse with Opa and Oma because the latter could only stammer a few words in English?

Yes, I now have my own children and the world is their playground. Will they even recognize me a hundred years from now in their new world? Will my ex-wife even remember why she at one time loved me? Why we had a family together. And then what is the meaning of my life if everything always changes and there is nothing permanent?  Why do I exercise everyday in my basement?  Why swallow all those pills and health diets at age 65?  Just so I can become 90 too and my children have forgotten even whether I still exist?  Nobody remembers my father's store. Nobody remembers Donald Trump 50 years from now?  Was he number 45 or 75?  

I can only come up with one answer, the longer I live it becomes clearer than anything else.  In the end we all will reach the end-station it may take a long or it may take a short time. It doesn’t matter how many friends you make or how many lovers you had. It doesn’t even matter whether you raised a couple of kids and that you can’t remember the names of all you grand-grand children. What in the end only matters is HOW you lived, HOW you travelled the journey of your life. How you grew as a person and then… there is nothing. If you don’t do it for yourself, nobody really cares and certainly your boss a few jobs back doesn’t remember you. Everything you do in your life is only for yourself!  If you don’t make the best of your life; if you don’t keep up your health and your life energy; your drive to do and learn new things well nobody else will.   In the worst case you will be remembered as a mass killer or a devil. But even that will be forgotten or only remembered as some negative deformed caricature. You are a speck of dust in the universe and you have been somehow, thanks to your parents, a self-awareness and the ability to create a good life for yourself and those around you. That is the only thing that counts FOR YOU not for anyone else!  You can do with this opportunity what you want.  Make it heaven on earth or a living hell.  Your choice and you will soon be forgotten.  Thanks Dad – I don’t think I will forget you as long as I live. Nor will I forget my children or my lovely ex-wife as long as I live. I certainly hope so. I am just a speck of dust with self awareness. I am privileged but in the end nobody else cares what I do with my live – it is entirely up to me.

PS and BTW.  I didn't say you should live without any values and principles. To the contrary if you create a living hell for those around you then your life will likely be hell as well.  That is why you should live with integrity and compassion for those around you. Stealing is highly destructive behavior and so is killing others - that is just common sense.

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