On my birthday in August of 2009 my dad was taken to the hospital because he was talking gibberish. He was making little sense, like he was drunk or worse. A day or so later we learned that his lungs were utterly exhausted from the many years of heavy smoking and from working in unsafe conditions at a chemical factory in Poland. In his early seventies his poor lungs could no longer expel the carbon monoxide that filled them and so he was slowly suffocating.
It was a very surreal moment when the nurses flushed his lungs and they were once again full of oxygen. Over time my dad returned to normal, at least for the time being, but that was very short lived. Nothing else could be done. His lungs were irreparable.
We faced his death together. There was nothing left to do but say some goodbye and wait it out.
It seemed like eternity, sitting there by his hospital bed, just waiting for him to die. It seemed like eternity, but it took no more than a blink of an eye.
One moment, my dad was struggling and gasping for his next breath, and the next moment there was nothing but silence.
He was gone.
He last breath was gone.
He was no more.
Years have passed but he continues to live inside my heart. His son. That little boy who loved him so much. Who looked up to him and cherished him. A father now, who would take all the riches of the world to get back for a brief moment, back to that hospital bed. To listen to those lungs once again, and watch them rise and fall one more time.
I never had a chance to meet my grandmother Monica, and I have a few spotted memories of my grandfather Joseph. I loved and absolutely adored my grandmother Victoria, but did not have a chance to meet my grandfather Paul either.
I have absolutely no idea who my great-grandparents were and so it seems we live our lives surrounded by but five generations of memories.
We are lucky sometimes to know our grandparents, our parents, ourselves, our children, and before we know it, its almost time to go, as we lay our eyes and marvel at our grandchildren.
I’m not at the end yet but I am fascinated and wonder if there is a reason for this short generational experience. I wonder if there is a meaning or purpose as to why we only ever reach back and forth so far.
I wonder who will remember my dad when I am gone?
But perhaps that doesn’t matter.
Perhaps what matters is what the two of us shared something beautiful, and that it doesn’t matter if anyone else ever remembers us, or hears about it.
His last breath gives me life and I cannot help but see his face and my mother’s, when I look in the mirror each and every morning. I miss both of them and I pray that they are proud of me. I hope that I have made something of my life. That my life has been worth their love and sacrifice.
We certainly don’t get much time.
And we spend much of it comparing and measuring ourselves against some idea of greatness.
Maybe life is meant to be simple.
Maybe happiness comes about by being and not doing.
Maybe life reveals itself in every breath we take.
Maybe time is more important than money.
Maybe our lives matter more than we care to admit.