[This particular article is a little lacking on personal finance. Sometimes the personal is more important than the finance – this is one of those days. Please give me the benefit of the doubt for a day or two to bring it back to personal finance.]
A few months back I bought a used iPod Nano off of Craigslist. It’s a first generation 2GB version and it cost me $60. I filled it up with some of my favorite albums and listen to it for a couple of hours a day. A couple of minutes ago, I got to the Cat Stevens’ Greatest Hits album. In particular the some Oh Very Young came on. Though I have listened to the hundreds of times before, today I broke down and cried.
This weekend my sister-in-law’s best friend died. I think she was 32. She had Multiple-Sclerosis for a few years now. It was not a surprise. The writing was on the wall for the past week – it was a matter of when the phone call would come – not if. I had never even had the opportunity to meet her. My only memory of her was actually my wife’s. She shared her memory of the day she said, “The doctors say there’s wrong with me, but they don’t know what.”
If there’s a Hall of Fame of being bad at dealing with death, I’m a unanimous, first ballot member. Anya from Buffy the Vampire Slayer may be Babe Ruth, but I’m Ted Williams. I’m always conflicted on what to say. There seem to be no words to help the situation. So what can you do? The common sense in me surfaces to say, “No one really wants everyone to be sad when they die.” I would like there to be a decent-sized reasonably priced keg party if I die. That and I’d like at least one person somewhere to put a flag at half-mast. Maybe I’m being silly, but I see nothing productive about being sad.
My wife and I got to talking about dying young yesterday. My wife had lost her best friend at the age 22 or 23. She said something to the effect of, “At least Jack (name changed) lived a full life. He had lots of friends and always seemed to cram every minute of fun possible into it.” In my infinitely bad wisdom, I came up with, “Did he really, though? He never got married, experienced fatherhood, or any of number other things that I’m sure that he’d be loving to do today.” (See, no one can be as bad at dealing with death than me). I’m surprised she didn’t break down and cry right there.
I quickly changed the subject to my father. I lost my father when I was 13 – he was 45. 45 seemed like a very long, long “full life”. I realize now that it really isn’t. He never got to see either of his son’s graduate from college. He never got to see the Red Sox win a World Series or the Patriots win a Super Bowl.
I can’t believe there’s such a thing as living a full life when you die young. Cat Stevens is right, we are only dancing on this Earth for a Short While. Jen, I hope that great white bird gave you a smooth ride to heaven – it’s no time for turbulence.