December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve 2011

Who knows which way the wind blows?

Several times a week, I read the online version of my hometown newspaper for the obituaries. As gruesome as that sounds, I have no family in that area almost 300 miles away. I moved away more than three decades ago.

Yesterday I noticed the obit of a man who was a year behind me in high school.  Though I attended a small, consolidated rural school, there were quite a few people I only knew by sight or name. My high school class came out of three elementary schools, and he may have come from a different one. I really don’t know. I lived there all my life. Did he move to the town from somewhere else? I’m sure he did not know me, either.

By nature I’m a curious person, so I clicked on the link to take me to the memory page. There were dozens of notes – many from people I do know – offering sympathy and remembrance for this man. The obituary also noted that he was predeceased by an older sister, also someone I just vaguely knew who was a year or two ahead of me in high school.

Feeling like a voyeur, I also looked at the slide show the funeral home had posted. It was an odd feeling, observing the life of this man I did not know. I don’t know how he died; some pictures showed him looking haggard and gaunt.  Many showed an apparently happy childhood and others showed pictures of him with his own children at holidays, birthdays, and on vacation.

I’ve thought about this man I don’t know over the past day.  I’ve thought about how his loss means to those who love him and spent a life with him.

As we move into the New Year, I am always hopeful for the future but aware of time passing. Perhaps this man knew his time was limited. Perhaps he had no clue. Given the choice, I’m sure most of us would not want to know when the Grim Reaper will come for us.

Because of the world and national situation, I can’t say I’m overly optimistic about the New Year; perhaps it’s just that I’m cautious to proffer a prediction. By nature I tend to be cautiously optimistic, though I find sometimes my optimism gets mired in reality. The lesson for me—and probably for most of us -- is to live in the present, for who knows what tomorrow will bring.