While I don’t really feel all that old, I am keenly aware that I am aging. I could still live for several more decades, but maybe not. I’m in my 60s now and have had several heart issues. My sight isn’t as good as it used to be, hearing is more difficult, and it takes more energy to do things than it did when I was a younger person. But it is not health issues, the slow disintegration of one’s body, or even the realization of one’s own mortality that is the hardest thing about aging.
It’s the loss.
As you survive each year, there are others who do not. As you reach the plateau of each new year or decade, there are more people–acquaintances, friends, and family–who are no longer making the same journey with you, who have dropped off and moved on to another plane where you can still love them, but no longer hug them, see them smile, or talk to them.
Yesterday I found out that a dear friend of mine, a man I met when he was in his late teens or early 20s, died at the young of 54. I was a part of about two-thirds of Donato’s life and he was a part of more than half of mine, and now there is another hole where there was once a joyful, beautiful person. While we would go long periods without contact, we stayed in touch and he was one of those people for whom it seemed that no time had passed whenever we reconnected. We just picked up where we last left off.
In just the last couple years, several acquaintances, a couple good friends, and my mother have all died. One of those was only 29. My mother was 92. All of them went too soon. They always do. If it’s while you are still walking the earth, it is too soon. This is the hard part of aging. This is the loss that really hurts. I can deal with my own body slowly weakening as I grow into old age, but having less and less people to share my joys and sorrows with makes my heart and soul weaker also.
I will miss Donato as I miss Lars Prip, Mom, Brendan Hartmann, Joe Johnson, Jim Green, and all of those who passed even before them. I will ache over this. I will look at old photos and smile, remember laughter and good times and smile again, and then I will realize that those things are only memories and dust and that each day I live is a little lonelier without Donato and without all of those loved ones who left too early.