Friday, December 19, 2014

Changing of the Guard

In my life, it has been a week for transitions. My mother's brother, my Uncle Gordie, died this week, and my wife's mother too.

Many of us get to an age where we witness the older generation passing on. I have certainly reached that time. At Gordie's gathering (for lack of a better term) at the funeral home, I re-connected with relatives whom I rarely see anymore outside of funerals, and I met others for the first time, who, over the years, were born and grew up beyond my view.

Neither my mother in law nor my uncle were completely well recently, and though their passing wasn't anticipated so soon, we knew it was drawing closer (isn't it for all of us?). Yet the sudden finality of death often seems to arrive with a quiet impact.

We remember those who are now gone from us. At the funeral home, the digital photo show on a flatscreen and the hard-copy photos on a cork board contained images of others who have passed as well. Some, like my father and other uncles who have passed, were brought back to us in those images frozen in a past time. There were old hunting-trip photos and many pics taken at parties during those by-gone years.

There was even one black-and-white photo from 1948 -- before my parents had even met -- a group photo at a birthday party. What was noteworthy about this pic was not just the healthy youth and joy of people that I had only known when they were old. No, in this particular image, I was apparently the only one who noticed a young man and woman with serious expressions, who were on opposite sides of the eight-by-ten, landscape-orientation photo. Unlike almost everyone else in the picture, who were looking into the camera, intent on making a good photograph, these two appeared to be caught making eye contact with each other, a connection across a room at the instant the camera shutter blinked open. What, if anything, did that exchanged look mean? It will remain a mystery forever because the young man in the photo is now an old man, who suffers from a failing memory inside a crumbling body. And the woman is unidentified -- unknown to all who were asked about her.

The players are constantly changing in the world, but the game goes on. It is ineluctable that our passing will come too, but in the mean time, we stop and remember those who worked, parented, partied, and even made eye contact across a room in a long-distant celebration -- the potential prelude to a more personal interaction. Ah, the sweet stuff of life as it rolls unceasingly forward; always familiar yet always changing.

The changing of the guard often comes with ceremony. And ceremony brings its own customs -- often uniforms or procedures. This usually involves looking good -- and that usually involves . . .

a good shave.

Happy shaving!

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