This past weekend I joined my family in laying my grandmother’s remains to rest. She lived 95 incredible years on this earth – growing up in the wake of the Great Depression on dusty farmland in Illinois, raising a family on pennies a day, and traipsing across the country with my grandfather where he worked for the National Park Service in then-remote places like the Grand Canyon, Jackson Hole, and the Grand Tetons.
As I looked out at those in attendance at her service, I realized that there weren’t many people in the seats, but it’s understandable because she out-lived most of her friends. In 95 years she’s seen and done and been to more places than most will ever experience. She witnessed countless wars and recessions, the evolution from small airplanes on this planet to spacecraft on distant planets. She lived as the Supreme Court made gigantic, landmark decisions that changed our country. She saw people born, live their lives, and pass away. In her life on this earth she did more than she ever dreamed, more than she ever imagined, more than she ever hoped.
I was talking with a friend recently about long-term goals in life and neither one of us have ever seriously sat down and made goals because we never expected to live long-term. Both of us had contemplated suicide as youths and assumed that we didn’t need to make those kinds of goals. I was telling my friend about being in my high school career planning classes and having to write down five- and ten-year goals for my future and I couldn’t do it – I never dreamed that far ahead. At the time it seemed pointless and a waste of time. Even now I don’t regret my choice to not make those kinds of plans in life because I was dealing with larger issues than dreaming of the future. I was trying to survive the present.
And truthfully, now it’s a bit of a relief knowing I can do anything. I have no big goals that I have to attain or fail to achieve. The world and my future is wide open. I think that’s the way my grandmother lived her life, too. She didn’t have plans for her life: she went where she chose to go, learned to love the people and places she encountered, and made the best of any situation. No doubt she dreamed about doing things and going places, but she wasn’t let down when she couldn’t. She used her time to enjoy the people and places that were in her presence and didn’t get disappointed with the lost prospect of being somewhere else.
Certainly I have broad hopes and dreams – to be in a loving and committed relationship, serve others with all I have, care for my family…but these are all things I can do at any time. There is no telos to these hopes and dreams; I won’t think, “Well, I’m married. Good work, Sheth. I’m done with that.” I will have to work hour by hour, day by day on that relationship. These hopes and dreams I have are part of my ‘being’ – am I being loving today, am I being caring and compassionate to others, am I being a servant? I’m living my life in the present and doing what I can to enjoy each moment as it happens.
May the Creator of the present give us sight to be present and relish our time.
much love. sheth.