My mother, Hilda Prager, died 10 days ago.
Because she has consumed my thoughts since then, I thought I would share some of them with my readers.
1. On the age a parent dies
One of the first things most people ask when a person loses a parent is how old he or she was. This is entirely normal, yet it demands explanation. It is entirely normal because people regard the death of a 90-year-old parent quite differently from that of, let us say, a 70-year-old, let alone someone younger than that.
For good reason. The death of a 90-year-old is not a tragedy; the death of a 60-year-old is. As the son of a woman who died at age 89, I fully recognize this. I am deeply grateful that my mother lived so long.
But while age at death is the whole story for outsiders, it is only half the story for a person’s loved ones. One does not miss a loved one less because he or she died at 89. My mind is entirely at peace with my mother’s death at 89, nearly all of those years lived in good health, and the last 69 in wedded bliss to my father, who is alive and well. But I do not miss her one whit less because she was 89. Indeed, one might argue that having lived to age 61, I have had that much longer a period of time to get used to having -- and very much enjoying -- my mother in my life. My mind is deeply grateful; but it also knows that my mother is gone forever.
2. On blessings coming with prices
My parents were inseparable for 73 years, 69 of them as husband and wife. That is a rare blessing, rendered even rarer by their both being in essentially excellent health for nearly every day of those 73 years. But what is most important is that they were, to use a term that cannot be applied to many marriages, soul mates.
There is a price paid for the blessing of having a soul mate: losing a soul mate. When a soul mate dies, whether after a few years or 73 years together, the hole left in the other’s life is immeasurable.
I once spent an afternoon with George Burns in his home (he listened to my radio talk show and invited me to visit). Most of the time, he spoke about his love of his late wife, Gracie, even though she had died decades earlier. When one has married a soul mate, time doesn’t seem to diminish the longing.
3. On long life as a huge advantage for a parent