Well, this may be a little morbid. Or a lot. Please accept my apologies in advance for writing about our inevitable demise.
At the post office yesterday, I noticed a woman maybe fifteen or twenty years older than I preparing an express mail cardboard envelope. She had a label, on 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper that looked to have been printed from her computer. It appeared that she was returning something to some on-line retailer. As my imagination went a little wild considering what she was sending back in that little envelope, I noticed her carefully measuring and folding, with great precision and the back of her thumbnail, the paper label so that it fit the envelope, just so. She had a roll of packing tape neatly next to her.
I moved past her in line, got the package I was waiting for, and left. I didn’t have a chance to see her tape the label onto the envelope and send it on its way, but the entire rest of my errand running (and apparently still this afternoon, as I write this), I thought about everything we learn throughout our lives and how one day, poof, all that learning and ability will be gone from this earth. Somewhere during her life, that woman had mastered the skills necessary to measure and fold that paper and attach it and get the parcel wherever it needed to get to.
I know that seems like a small thing, but think about it in the context of all the other things we do in our lives. Over our lifetime, we learn to do great things and small things; to comfort a crying baby; to catch a ball; to swim; to write technical papers; to sell software; to banter, sing and sharpen and knife. And for all of that to disappear when we take our last breath, well, I don’t know what to think. I’m not saddened, as I know that part of living is doing, learning and experiencing. I think I feel a little sense of responsibility to the people who may live longer than I. You should know what I know, feel what I feel …. But then again, why? They will have their own knowings, their own feelings.
Generations from now, no one will think twice about my lifetime of learning and my little accomplishments. I will be remembered, perhaps, with a headstone that lists born-on and died-on dates. It won’t say, “Sarah knew how to draft a damn good disclosure document.” It won’t explain what it takes to learn, at 46 years, how to stay up on a slalom water ski. There will be no mention or care that I had a weird, sick sense of humor, or these bizarre thoughts on living and not living while standing in line at the post office.