Last week marked my in-laws’ 55th wedding anniversary. They were married the year I was born, which is truly remarkable. Their relationship is a great example of a partnership of mutual respect and long-term commitment.

They quietly celebrated this year, as my father-in-law just finished a series of radiation and chemo treatments for tongue cancer. No night out or fancy dinners, as he’s relearning how to swallow. Nonetheless, I suspect the anniversary was quite special, given all they have been through this summer.

Yesterday was the second anniversary of my mother’s death. I remember the day too well, the culmination of a summer of preparation and waiting. On that Sunday morning, having lived fully to 86, she died quietly and at peace, in her home with her dog. That was just the way she wanted it to end.

While the grief has subsided, I miss her and always will. We were close and constantly chatting via e-mail or Skype. She was a good adviser: her life experience combined with a mother’s advocacy. Through my experience, she fed her interest in business, vicariously seeing a career that her age and the context of her time wouldn’t allow her to experience herself.

55 years and 86 years; both signify longevity. The paradox of such is that we come to believe it will never end. But it does, usually catching us by surprise and ill-prepared. Looking back, we may wish that we had savored and cherished the moments and experiences more.

One of the secrets of living a fulfilling life, I think, is to live in the moment. No day but today, to quote the song from Rent.

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In memory of Leroy Sievers

Yesterday, I pulled up NPR’s web page, hunting for some story, and was stunned when I saw the news that Leroy Sievers died Friday night.

I didn’t know Leroy and wasn’t aware of his work as a journalist. I learned of him two years ago when NPR reported on his blog My Cancer. That was around the time my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Leroy, 51, was fighting his cancer. My mother, 86, decided not to fight hers. With great equanimity, she announced that she had lived a full life and would let the disease take its course.

I followed Leroy for a bit and was encouraged by his progress. Soon, I had more than enough reality preparing my mother and myself for her death, and I stopped reading Leroy’s blog. Even after her death, now approaching the second anniversary, I did not resume reading, needing time and space for my own scars to heal.

Hence, my surprise and tears when I read of Leroy’s death at age 53. His fight gave him another two years, yet his time ended too soon for someone who had been so full of life. Just read Ted Kopel’s remembrance.

The last two weeks of Leroy’s blog are poignant. The family’s decisions to engage hospice and bring in a hospital bed were not easy, markers that the end was coming. Sooner than expected, it seems, and certainly sooner than hoped.

In the quiet of this evening, the crickets the only sound other than my typing, I am honoring Leroy’s struggle and courage and wishing his family comfort and strength. The immediate days after such a loss are a blur of preparation and sorrow, the sorrow creeping in when the activity subsides and the house becomes quiet.

My daughter is a fan of PostSecret. One of her favorite postings comes to mind, an admonition for the rest of us:

Psst, here’s a secret. Your last mortal thought will be, “Why did I take so many days – just like today – for granted?”

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High Sierra vacation

The last of July, my son Grant and I spent a carefree week hiking and exploring the high Sierra just west of Donner Lake.

We were part of a Sierra Club family outing, with nine other families from around the country and two capable leaders. Home base was the Sierra Club’s Clair Tappaan Lodge, which provided lots of wonderful food and a comfortable place to sleep.

Growing up in Reno, on the eastern edge of the mountains, I feel a strong connection to the Sierra: it’s inherent to my identity, and the grandeur brings me a palpable connection to the sacred. This trip was an opportunity for me to spend time with Grant and to introduce him to an important part of my life and a place just to have fun. The continual vistas of mountains, lakes, meadows, and stars recharged my batteries and reminded me of a few of life’s priorities.

Looking across Flora Lake, where this photo was taken, I penned these thoughts:

Clouds proceed across the blue backdrop.
Granite cascades to water’s edge,
competing with pine and brush.
The breeze – no wind – gusts across the lake,
rippling water and bushes along the shore.
Chilled, I move into the sunlight.
The breeze stills and the sunshine becomes hot,
sending me back into the shade.
Nature plays this game
and lets me join in for too short a time.
An afternoon out of an eternity.

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