A very wise friend told me recently,
“You only live life twice:
once right after you’re born,
and once right before you die.”
My opa died on Wednesday – in the hospital, in a body riddled with cancer, and in under two hours.
I’ve always had a strange relationship with my oma and opa. As children, my siblings and I were acknowledged twice a year, on our birthday and sometime around Christmas, except for the years they forget us. Seeing them was always fun (the first computer I ever saw was in Opa’s basement… and as a matter of fact, it remains the only computer I’ve ever seen that was as big as the wall it sat in front of), but it wasn’t until I reached the tender age of ten or eleven that I began to realize it was a little odd to have grandparents who forgot your name, considered you a snob, and refused to return your phone calls or let you inside their house when you showed up with your dad for a friendly afternoon visit. It wasn’t until I reached the wise age of twelve that I learnt about addictions and depression, about anxiety and a life consumed by regret.
But sometime during this present age – still tender, not as wise as previously thought – I reached out to my oma and opa; not altogether altruistically, but because I needed them in my life.
These past few weeks with my opa in hospital have been some of the most beautiful times I have shared with them. I held my opa’s hand and cleaned his teeth; I made him laugh by making up stories about the other patients and exaggerating my tales of woe from school. While my opa dozed, I talked to my oma about her life before coming to Canada, her horribly dull first job and her bitch of an employer, the “short twerp” (her words, not mine) her family had planned for her to marry, and the dashing young man who stole her heart for the past 54 years. I held her as she cried and inspected her face for any traces of tears before she turned back to my opa , assuring her that yes, she looked beautiful and no, he wouldn’t be able to tell she had been crying.
The last time I visited with my opa, a few nights before he died, we had a lively talk about Man U football and the prospective outcome of the Grey Cup. As I kissed him goodbye, he turned his face to me and smiled. “Good night, sweetheart,” he said. “Thank you for coming to see me.”
You only live life twice: once right after you’re born, and once right before you die.
My opa and I had a chance to re-live our life together right before he died. What a gift. But a gift that shouldn’t wait. I have experienced more death in the past five years of my short life than most people will experience in their entire lifetime. But with each death, I choose to see it as a reminder that we only have this moment to live this life.
So, go live! Live vibrantly and love extravagantly.