The New Year is easily one of the most cliched times of the season...a new you is possible, a better you. Make a resolution, a new committment, find a unique hobby, live your dreams in travel that you kept yourself from in the previous year. I think 2012 has a fun spin because some wingdings, who have failed entirely in taking Mayan culture and thought process into consideration, are touting this as their own brand of neolithic "The End Times" bids, not realizing that it insults and completely redraws the genius of the Mayan calendar system and astronomical findings into a simplified, primitive tool that they can use to wax idiotic about the supposed "End of Days" and get a book deal.
Does that sound a bit bitter? I'm sure it does, but, I think in many senses, I'm a historian at heart, and those that seek to tear asunder the accomplishments and ingenuity of the so-called "primitive" cultures and have the audacity to try and recast them in a Western mold are the worst kind of charlatan in my book. I despise even more that there are people who forward this industry of "The End Times", giving creedence to, whichever the "doomsday" du jour flavor is, be it a myopic rendering of the New Testament or a rehash of the ubiquitous predictions of Nostradamus.
I address this, not to review old arguments and theories, but because the true notion of the "New Year" fits into strange situations that we find ourselves in during everyday life. Things are cyclical in life, whether we in the Western world see it that way or not. One thing dies, another is given an opportunity to come into the void, life goes on, whether we are present or not, and the cycle begins again. That is not to say that one person can replace another, it is to say, that, no matter how we grieve or notice the absence of what was before, but, existence does continue, and we can acknowledge or not, but life doesn't care if we make that choice.
I think this the zen of my husband's mindset, and I myself didn't realize it until now. He has attended over twenty funerals in his thirty-five years, many of them family, some friends, and a few acquaintances. He mourns the loss of the departed, he knows that they can never be replaced, but he doesn't mire himself in grief as many do. I've known him for ten years, and only known him to cry once or twice, maybe once relating to a death, and those were under extraordinary circumstances. I, by contrast, have maybe gone to three or four, one when I was too young to remember. Loss, for those of us who don't deal with it personal terms as often, is harder to understand sometimes, but, as the Blackfoot saying goes, "Life and death are not separate, it only looks that way".
I really started to understand this lesson recently, beginning with my grandmother's death in 2006. Sometimes, a loss takes time to sink in, and Granma's was hard to bear in the sense that she was the link that held our extended family together, in many ways. She was a quiet force of personality, never having to shout or grandstand to gain attention, never having to preen or judge to get her point across. She was everything a Granma should be, loving, generous, kind, always willing to listen and go the extra mile, steady and always there if she were needed. That's not to say Granma Doris Marsh was a perfect person, but she was one of the classiest and sweetest grandmother's a kid could have. Both my brother and I took it hard when she went, though it was most likely quick and painless physically. But I began to learn, we all meet our end, someday, and even the greatest people are not immune to death.
My husband and I had to start over again as well this year, and life chose to teach me the lesson again. One of our pups, a sweet, but somewhat high-strung, German Shepherd that we'd had for a year, managed an escape routine while my husband was loading the dogs into his camper from the lake and was struck after she ran out onto the highway. I wasn't there, but I got the call as he and our friend were rushing her into town to the emergency vet. She died at the vet soon after we arrived. My husband felt extremely guilty, but it wasn't his fault. She had always hated cars, and I could never calm her enough on our runs or walks to mitigate that fear as people roared by on the country highways.
It may seem a trivial time to some to learn the lesson, but it hurts when you lose a pet. You care for them, love them, train them, and try to do the very best for them. But sometimes, it doesn't work out as well as it should. And life still continues on...we had another dog at the time, a sweet year-and-a-half GSD/Pit mix, Fenrir, who needed our love after losing his best friend and playmate. When it happened, he became very subdued for a few days...he knew she wasn't coming back, but not why. And, it was a time to see another opportunity. In honor of Leiche, our lost pup, we could rescue another dog who needed a home. We were lucky, and found a gentle lab/border collie mix named Piper who fit in perfectly with Fenrir. He accepted her right away, a twist that we had not expected, and they seem to be the perfect match.
Often times, we live our lives as though there will always be tomorrow for what we should do today. That is not to say that we should live recklessly, because that would just be wasting what we might have been given. It is to say that we need to enjoy each other and our blessings, because, once we're gone, though we might, or might not, be missed and mourned, life will go on just fine without us, as it is the way of the world. There will be some that will remember us, there will be some that might take our lessons to heart and pass them on...but a legacy isn't as important as what we have, and making the most of it while we do. And as life goes on, we can honor what those who have passed before us have done, and in their stead, try to make the world a little better. Even if we don't, maybe the world will send someone to fill the void for us, and take the opportunities that we should have.