Today is the TENTH anniversary of the day I had a stroke. Ever since then, I traditionally give thanks on Boxing Day, that I survived my brain insurrection(s. TWO so far). Lately though, I’ve been thinking more broadly – about mortality, and how tenuous it is. Not just for me, but for humans generally.
Many people who were healthy during my medical crisis a decade ago have subsequently become ill too, and a few have died. In particular, 2022 was a terrible year for losing friends. A few months ago, I was writing blog eulogies for beloved pals every few weeks, when 3 friends died in quick succession..
Middle age is a strange time of life. We see the earlier generation that raised us leaving, as the first of our own generation go too. I was exposed to this lesson early, when my own mother was the first of her own generation to die, at the shockingly young age of 39.
As my own mortality has become more apparent, I’ve found that the sense of humour required in my job as a cartoonist has been an indispensable survival tool. Laughing at my inevitable decline helps keep it (and myself) in perspective. Also grounding me, is my gratitude for the many family & friends who’ve been by my side throughout this journey & my good fortune for my second chances to be here at all.
I still vividly remember foggily regaining consciousness in a hospital bed 10 years ago. Nightmarishly, I’d incurred almost a quarter of a million dollars of medical debt while unconscious. Additionally, my entire right side was completely paralyzed, including my drawing arm. My health, career & financial security had all vanished in a heartbeat.
It seemed utterly impossible that I’d ever dig myself out of that pit of emotional & financial despair. That harrowing time is always very fresh in my memory, but I especially ponder it on this day each year. With a sadness at what I lost, yes, but joy too, at what I’ve managed to regain.
At 58, I am now almost 20 years older than my young mother ever got to be. In fact, I am hardly middle aged anymore. If ‘young’ is 0-30, ‘middle’ is 31-60, and ‘old’ is 61-END, I must accept that I’m nearing the younger subset of a genuinely OLD demographic. So it goes. We are all mayflies.
For an eternity before our lives, we don’t exist.. Briefly, we POP into life as bubbles of mortality to blow on the breeze, and soon vanish. Then, another eternity of not existing afterward. It’s quite a blow to the ego to realise how brief is our moment on stage. I do not know if there is something next. What I do know, is that coping with impermanence & encroaching time is what a human LIFE here on Earth is all about.
We must shoulder our burdens, and patch our wounds, without giving in to self pity, regret, bitterness or recrimination. Dealing with this decrepitude ourselves, and helping others persevere through their own mounting frailties, is one of the main missions of being human, I think. While giving (& getting) some joy along the way!
I am very grateful to all of you who tolerate my meandering ramblings here on my blog (home to my non-stop blather since 2001). Here’s to a happy NEW YEAR to us all, as we dance down the runway to 2023!