You know I want to live as long as I can, but in a fit and healthy condition…so I can be active and not whine often like older others about their doctors and disabilities.
On April 27th, I went to the Museum of Bethel Woods, the site of the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969. An artist friend from high school AND college, David Byrd, was having a retrospective of his posters—he did one for the Festival and many for Broadway shows like Godspell, Follies, and Jesus Christ Superstar—and I hadn’t seen him since the eighties.
My college roommate, Michael Futterman, who had also known David at school, met us there, along with David’s friend, Jolino. It was a great little reunion, being together in the midst of David’s work plus all the videos, mementos and photos of the Woodstock weekend that changed the world. The mud-spattered, often-naked, hippie, drugged-out bodies. A generation with great hopes for peace and optimism. David admitted he spent a lot of his Festival time under the stage…cold, hungry, wet and miserable. But the music was great!!
I was still glad the next day that we had survived so long and reconnected, although we had talked about common friends who were gone. Then I received a phone call informing me that just as we were reminiscing at Bethel Woods, another high school classmate had died in a hospice. A few days later I learned that still another high school classmate’s husband of 53 years had also just died on the 28th. Both men fought long losing battles with cancer.
While I am smiling and hugging old friends, while I am exercising, watching cholesterol and improving my tennis, others I know or friends know…are sick, and dying. Lives over. Bums me out. I’ve been sort of numb for two weeks. I feet guilty for still being alive.
Gary Brooks was a rear-echelon military lawyer in a helicopter brigade in Vietnam, but volunteered to fly for over 100 hours in rescue missions. He was exposed to Agent Orange, contracted cancer and died from it. Not fair that such courage and generosity is rewarded so harshly. I was upset that he looked so frail at a dinner last October, though he was humorous, vital and energetic. He did tell me about the cancer and how it started. He also sang a long funny song he wrote about a she-eagle who fell in love with a Huey Helicopter. Helluva lawyer.
My friend, Flora Mason, wrote beautifully about her husband’s dying: “We faced the challenge of his illness together and walked with him on his last steps in life’s journey. It was a privilege, not a duty.” How magnificent to not think of all that caring and effort as a burden.
I am sad that we humans, like all other organic creatures and matter, wear out and die…unless before that we are stepped on by a dinosaur or crushed by a falling piano. Life is such a treasure, a gift. We who are surviving can only be grateful at the opportunity to make the most of the time we have. We make money, clothe and house ourselves, love a few friends and family members, influence and help some strangers, and pray that we do not become so sick or injured that we can’t function.
Muscles, fitness and good health seem petty to me sometimes. Until I see those who don’t have them speeding faster than I toward our graves.