“Daydream Believer” is on iTunes as I started typing, and I know I can choose for it to lead me into melancholy, or I can just sing along and pretend I am again 10 years old, with my hairbrush for a microphone, dueting with my beloved Davy Jones and The Monkees.
Davy Jones, of course, died this week at the age of 66. The heart of the man who had figuratively stopped the heart of so many pre-teen girls through the ’60s, ’70s and beyond–including mine–had ceased to beat.
The loss of our childhood idols is a loss of innocence, each one bringing us closer to our own mortality. Gone is any chance Davy will take us to the prom (as he did Marcia Brady), even though he and we were well past school dance age. And as we stride through the years, there come more endings amid our beginnings, and they soon coat our innocence like lead, bringing a bit of protection and a lot of weight.
No matter how old we get, endings are always heavy.
A longtime and respected harness racing friend, Geoff Stein, dropped dead Sunday morning while jogging. He was 58 and in the prime of his well-lived life. It’s always the prime of life–until we realize it was actually the end. My sister-in-law’s mother died of cancer in January after a short but valiant fight–the matriarch of a six daughters, their five spouses, 12 grandchildren and a husband who loved her and now struggles daily to find comfort amid his loneliness.
Brian and I have been attending a family support group at The James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State to help parents who have cancer and the kids who love them. Their stories are raw and emotional, as the disease all too often carries these families toward an end of life as they knew it, and the beginning of a new, heartbreaking normal.
I have a beloved pet who is nearing the end of her lifetime, and she, too, has cancer. I can see the lumps protruding from her skin, and she seems quizzical at the things her body can no longer do, although her spirit remains willing. My grandmother is celebrating her 95th birthday in a month. She embraces each milestone, but acknowledges she doesn’t know how many may be left (“I don’t buy green bananas,” she once told my sister).
We realize as we get older that endings are inevitable–and painful and scary. And if we are lucky, and smart, we begin to embrace the beginnings with even more fervor and appreciation.
Brian was again pronounced cancer free at his three-year follow-up CAT scan from treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, letting us step lighter as we get even more strides past the disease that once clouded our future. My 11-year-old son is ending elementary school this year, but he is beginning middle school, and we know puberty is about to erupt and rock our world like a volcano. At the other end of that spectrum, my beautiful twin nieces are readying to leave home for college, and one is coming less than an hours drive from us, allowing us to share her beginning.
On Saturday I met with a graduating high school senior who had been accepted by Ohio State–among several other schools–and was seeking information to make the choice that will be right and best for him, so he can begin the next stage in his life. He was part of his high school paper, and wanted to pursue college journalism. He had a keen mind, a natural curiosity and the clear intellect to be successful no matter what major or school he chose. It was exciting to see how excited he was to be beginning his future.
In the natural order of life, we must have endings to have such beginnings. There is death and there is birth. There is sickness and there is health. There are graduations and there is an incoming class of bright, ambitious students.
I know I need to mourn the losses. But then I have to grab that hairbrush and belt out the songs that make me feel alive. Every day is a new beginning.
I’m a believer. How about you?