Last year’s Memorial Day will be the one I will remember more than any other Memorial Day.
There were no picnics…no fanfare…no parades…not a big party. It was me, Kramer, Kelli and baby Georgia.
Kramer, my husband, was on the last leg of his illness with lung cancer. He had broken his neck at this point as the cancer had spread to his c2 in his neck and ate away the bone. He was in a neck brace and working hard to deal with the pain of it all.
It was Memorial Day morning and he was trying his best to lift his own spirits. He had decided over the weekend that he wanted to attend the Memorial Day service here in town. Kelli and I were trying our best to scramble and make sure it could happen. We knew he’d need a wheelchair. We knew we needed oxygen with. We knew he needed a shower before he could go. We knew it would be a big deal to get everything in place to be able to get him to go but we all had great attitudes and were so happy to see him trying to go out.
I was actually really surprised he wanted to go. In our last almost 33 years together, he had never expressed an interested in going. I asked him about it and he said– “I always worked on Memorial Day. Most of the years I was cutting hay and the few I didn’t it was raining and services were cancelled. I’ve really always wanted to go. I admire veterans and think it’s so good that we honor them.” Kelli and I could tell he really wanted to go.
Then he started talking about a few of the local veterans he knew and how glad he was that they had served. He said it was the least he could do to go.
Well Kelli and I took it more to heart than ever that we really needed to help him get to the Memorial Day service. We were certain, with his health, he’d never have a chance to go again.
We started way before we thought we thought we needed to. We got him downstairs to the shower and I helped him. We got upstairs, found his dress uniform for the fire department and were getting him dressed. In the middle of it he stopped and said– “This is too much. I can’t do it”.
Initially I didn’t understand. He had wanted to go. Why couldn’t he? Kramer had physical strength like few others. If he decided he could lift or carry something, he did it. There were times when we were carrying something that he would take one end and three of us would be on the other end. He was so strong….but that strength was gone. Cancer had taken hold of his body and wasn’t letting go.
He was so sad once he realized that we wouldn’t be able to get him there. He really had wanted to go….but physically, he just couldn’t. Little did we know the next day we’d have an appointment at the doctor’s in Lacrosse and that we’d have be told he had a couple weeks to live. This was Monday. In the wee hours the following Sunday he died. Little did we know that he’d only 135 hours longer before he was gone from us forever.
Fast forward a year later….We’re in the midst of covid. I’m trying to decide if I should quit childcare. My doctor recommended it. My health with my own thyroid cancer is not rosie..I don’t know if I can afford quitting work. I don’t know what I should do. That’s the point I was at three weeks ago.
I couldn’t help but circle back to Memorial Day of 2019. I couldn’t help but remember that all Kramer had wanted to do was go uptown and attend the Memorial Day service….but physically he couldn’t.
I got thinking of myself. What if I get to where Kramer is at? What if I get to the point I physically can’t do things any more- even something simple we all take for granted like attending a Memorial Day service? What am I going to wish I had done? What am I going to miss?
The thing that popped in the forefront for me was my grandkids. I’d really miss my grandkids. I don’t see the ones that live further away the way I wish I would. I wanted to stitch more…sew more…making a few legacy pieces. I wanted to hike…do spur of the moment things. I wanted to enjoy my house.
Kramer missed all the previous Memorial Day services because he was working. Was I going to let all the things I wanted to do pass me by because of work too?
So I decided, I’m not going to die with the most money and I don’t even care if I have to budget my way through my days. Most importantly, I’m not going to die wishing I had put aside work long enough to do some of the things I want to do. The funny thing is, it’s not vacations I want to take. It’s not places I want to go. I just want to enjoy more of the simple things my life already brings…more grandkids, more quilting, more stitching….more Rosie time…more walks…a lot more taking it easy.
Seeing Kramer go through what he did really brought me to a place that makes it easier to prioritize what is really important. Covid helped with that to. So money and riches be damned. I’m choosing a simple life and my hope is that when I’m 135 days from dying my wish isn’t something so simple as to wish I could attend my first Memorial Day service when I was 57.
I’m living my best life now. I don’t know how many weeks, days or even hours before it’s too late to enjoy the things I’d wished I’d have done.
I hope you live your best life, no matter what that is, and I hope if you’re not already doing that, that you start today.