“How did it get so late so soon?”
I had some losses recently. My beloved grandfather came within six months of his 100th birthday, but stubborn as he was, he just couldn’t quite make it there. Not too long after, the only pet of my adult life reached a similar end, at a very ancient (for a cat) age of 20 years. You’d think that having both of these wonderful entities in my life for such a long time would have lessened the grief at their passing, but it was not so. Greedily I still wanted more time with them and found it hard to let go.
On a cold, early winter day, we lowered shovelfuls of earth on my grandfather’s grave, while on a dark, lightning bug-lit summers’ night we gently lowered our cat’s pinewood coffin into its secret spot. But this isn’t an article about sadness or death. Rather it’s about the shift that happened following these two occurrences. I started thinking about “the box.”
Poppy will always be in a beautiful, shiny brown metal box with gold handles, while Ernie’s simple pinewood box is one we built ourselves. Perfectly sized for him, I used a Sharpie to decorate the outside with his name, dates of birth and death, messages of love and a drawing of him with us, his forever family. I picture both of them in their boxes now, at peace and just resting. Turning back into elements, grass and someday stardust again.
I think about how there is a box somewhere waiting for me. It might not have been built yet, but the idea of it, if not the reality, is now firmly planted. And there is a box for you as well. There is a box for everyone. (And if you plan to be cremated or dropped in the ocean, there is a metaphorical box for you.)
Every day, every moment, you are approaching closer to that box and a simple hole in the Earth. We will each go in there, maybe soon, or maybe (hopefully) not for a long, long time. Death and taxes, this is where we all trails end.
Truly understanding the hard truth of the box has changed me. It has made me less afraid. In perhaps a strange way, it comforts and encourages me, reminding me to make the most of the minutes and hours left to me. It helps me keep failure in perspective, and gravitate toward what’s real and feels important. If there is something I feel a pull to explore, I now do it faster and with more abandon. If there is a letdown that sandbags me, I recover sooner. I must. I am driven now. Life needs to be lived fully because the clock is ticking down. Days are precious. The box is waiting.