Life is filled with gain and loss. That is the nature of things, but the scales are tilted in different directions at different times of life.
The early decades are filled with all kinds of gains. People start a work life and they develop relationships. Many create families and the relationships multiply like rabbits. There are births and weddings and all kinds of events that mark the fact that life is on the upswing.
During those decades a person does not often think about loss because life is growing and friends and relations have gone forth and multiplied. If a loss does happen it is considered an unusual tragedy and life stops for awhile but then moves on at the same fast pace.
After a few decades of this kind of uphill life things slowly start to change. Because they change slowly, it may be hard to realize that a life of gain has moved into a life of loss. An elderly relative dies and then another, but a few years may pass between deaths.
Then you realize that there is only one person left from the generation that preceded you and you begin to realize that you have become the older generation. When your parents pass on the concept of loss is firmly rooted and the time comes for serious reflection.
What is my responsibility as the oldest generation in the family? Am I equipped to do what I think has to be done by people of my generation? When my mother died in 2013, with the exception of one aunt, it marked the end of her generation in her family and when my father died in 2007 he was the last of his generation in his family.
They both came from a generation that worked hard and valued family connectedness. My father's five brothers all lived within driving distance and they visited frequently when we were young. My mother's siblings also lived near enough to visit on a nearly weekly basis so the children of my generation were able to bond as we grew.
But now that most of our parents are gone cousins who were once close have not seen each other in decades. They are scattered all over the country and, as far as I know, we are all still alive. There was talk a few years ago of having a reunion but the task seemed so overwhelming and somehow the ball was left in my court where it still sits.
I'm sure that all of my cousins have suffered many losses in their lives and they are all living that part of their lives that is marked more by loss than gain. Once you realize that loss is going to happen on a regular basis you begin to accept one of the universal truths about aging.
Some people fight it and every time they lose a friend or relative they magnify the tragedy. Sure, it's hard to lose someone close to you, but people die and when people age more of those who are older die.
I think that those of us who work in the health care field have a chance to deal with loss and death better than others. When you observe and participate in death on a near daily basis you are forced to reflect on the importance of time and the meaning of your own life. Being around death more than the average person can be a gift.
So how should we deal with the inevitable tilt in our lives to more loss than gain? My answer is to think about the people who pass and reflect on what their lives meant to the rest of us and mourn, but also be happy that they were with us for a time.
As we deal with each loss, whether of a life or a decline in our own physical or mental capacity, most of us have a chance to prepare ourselves for the rest of our lives and simply try to make the best of the time we have left. That opportunity is also a gift.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.