A summer of losses causes one to think about the future

This is part of my husband’s and my “logical” family, taken 27 years ago on a hike in Pennsylvania.

It’s been a difficult summer. My husband and I lost two dear friends and a cousin in the space of a month.

We had planned two trips to New Jersey this summer to visit friends who have been together since childhood; we took four, two of them for funerals.

The original core group of boys met in fourth and fifth grade, and as the years went on, they gathered more friends and spouses, who played softball (or cheered on the team), vacationed together and gathered twice a year, in January and July.

We went to weddings and mourned the deaths of parents, and now each other.

Friendships like these are rare in today’s mobile society. People move and make new connections, and most of the time, many of the old connections are lost.

This group is my logical family (as opposed to biological), and the unexpected death of one and the lost battles to cancer of the other friend and my cousin were paralyzing.

Grief is an odd thing. It seems to be cumulative — each loss compounding the others. It comes in waves, and it’s not just for the most recent loss, but for each of them. For my father, and my sister and my son and these dear friends. It’s one of the most difficult things about aging.

But the loss of these friends reminds me of what’s important, of what I still have and what I want for the future.

I still have three sisters and a brother, a son, four grandchildren, a great-granddaughter, two daughters-in-law and two grandsons-in-law. And I still have a ton of logical family.

I’m reminded that we each have a limited time on this planet and we need to think about what we will leave behind when we go.

I would hope my legacy is a positive one, that I leave behind a better world in some small way. That’s why I’m so active in social causes. No one should go hungry or without shelter or health care in a world of plenty. No one should die at the hands of a cop because of the color of his or her skin.

Humans are an angry lot — we never seem to be at peace with what we have. We want more, more, more, and we’re not willing to ever admit we have enough. So, a few gain power and take even more, hoarding it in overseas accounts so they don’t have to pay taxes and contribute to the common good.

I’ve thought a lot this summer about how much I do have. I see war-torn places where people don’t have power or running water, where crops can’t grow because of the danger farmers face in times of war, or because the water is being co-opted by those in power. There are places where it’s not safe to go outside, even for a short time.

We Americans haven’t faced that since the Civil War, and I don’t think most of us are aware of how many problems in the world are caused by our own greed and short-sightedness.

The American “war on drugs” has caused instability throughout Central and South America, and now we’re punishing people for trying to escape the chaos we’ve helped to create.Build a wall, my ass — we need to open the gates the way we did in the early 20th century. There is great strength in diversity.

Our policies created Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and even Manuel Noriega (remember the Panamanian “strongman” from the 1980s?), and when they tried to take the power we gave them in a direction we didn’t want, we went to war and killed them.

We are not the good guys, and it’s time we acknowledge that and begin to work toward a more just society. It’s long past time to stand up and demand justice — economic, racial and moral justice for each of us.

I can’t bring myself to watch the Senate hearings to confirm Brett Kavanaugh for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, but I have friends there protesting, and soon I will join them.

We need to stem the tide of greed, racism and hate. We’re not here for long; we should make our time matter.

 

 

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