Today was the estate sale down the hall in apartment 508. It belonged to Carol and John. She passed away three years ago with a diagnosis of cancer. John never really recovered from her passing and probably had or developed a drinking problem.
Last Thanksgiving he fell down the stairs at a friends, healed slowly after a long hospital stay, lived at a rehab center paralized, never fully recovered, and died sometime in July.
Not a happy story but one so often common in so many people's story of being born, living, and having died. Lessons for all of us: Live for today as carefully as you can. Never go to bed angry with your partner. Be grateful for all you have. Know that nothing, absolutely nothing is permanent. Love is all that matters.
A side story takes place three years ago, a few days before Carol died. John and Carol came to Gregory and my building Christmas party even though she was ill, weak, and frail. I remember that she was dressed nicely but wearing her bedroom slippers.
John visited with the other guests and helped himself to Christmas cookies and a glass of wine. Carol sat on the sofa where Gregory, already advanced with his dementia, held her hand. They did not talk, they did not share, they did not eat. They just sat quietly together and held each other's hand.
Gregory retold the story a few times when we heard that Carol had died. He felt good about Carol coming to the party and at having been able to sit holding her hand.
I did not know that John had died last July until I saw the estate sale advertised in the building newsletter. I had asked the office a few times about how he was doing and tried to get an address to send him a card. But due to privacy reasons they were not able to share anything with me.
As I walked around Carol and John's condo witnessing the price tagged items of the final years of their life, I felt sad. What is a life when all that is left are the things that adorned one's surroundings. The items picked up at an art show, a gallery, on vacation, or just to fill that corner or to add to that collection.
I imagined what it would be like when Gregory and I are gone. Lots of stuff. But for now: lots of memories, lots of gratitude, lots of impermanence, a few arguments and rough times but never going to bed without telling the other, "I love you!" And that makes today easier to get through.