Sometimes I don't consider my life a life of privilege, but when I think about it, it truly is. Of course, I lead a middle-class existence, but in this country, middle class can be called privileged, because, after all, I have a roof over my head, all the food I want, warmth in the winter, and a car to get me to work. Plus extras, like cable TV, a computer, a sewing machine, and many other things add niceties to my existence.
Today, however, I'm thinking of privilege in a different way. While we had our 7-year-old precocious granddaughter Caroline over this past weekend, I marveled that I have been privileged to have the opportunity to know my grandchildren, privileged to see my children get married, privileged to have lived long enough so far to watch my nieces grow up. You see, many of my high school classmates did not make it this far, even to my relatively young age of 56. Kathleen Capon White, Mark Williamson, Debbie Henrich, Debra Boone, Woody Phillips, Debbie Kaplan, James Galey...they died too young. My dear cousin Mike McDonald, a few years younger than me, died just a couple of years ago. Cancer, murder, heart disease, hepatitis, auto accidents - for whatever reason, they are not here and I am. Mark never got to see his only child reach adulthood. Kathleen, who adored babies, never saw her kids marry and never got to cuddle a newborn grandbaby in her arms. All of them were kind, smart, talented people - yet they are gone, and I am still here, enjoying life with those I love. There is no reason for this set of circumstances, and it is beyond my power to control. Yet I can't get over the fact that they are gone, and I am still here.
My wish is that I never take for granted the precious time given me on this earth. I live for those whose lives were cut short. I live for all the experiences they missed, all the grandchildren without their kisses, all the sunrises and sunsets and snows they didn't see, and all the Thanksgivings and Christmases, weddings and births and graduations that they didn't have a chance to participate in. I pray that I live my life as I know they would have lived theirs - with dignity, compassion, and joy.
There are no guarantees. Death comes unannounced and it comes for everyone. While I still breathe the air of this good earth, though, I realize I am indeed living a life of grand privilege, a life of wealth that has nothing to do with money, and a life of remembrance of friends and family who left us too soon.