One Life to Live…

I’m a big James Taylor fan. I own most of his music, recorded, printed, and filmed, but my favorite song is undoubtedly the one whose first and last lines are “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.”

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
Any fool can do it
There ain’t nothing to it
Nobody knows how we got to
The top of the hill
But since we’re on our way down
We might as well enjoy the ride

The secret of love is in opening up your heart
It’s okay to feel afraid
But don’t let that stand in your way
‘Cause anyone knows that love is the only road
And since we’re only here for a while

Might as well show some style

Give us a smile

Isn’t it a lovely ride?
Sliding down
Gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride
Now the thing about time is that time
Isn’t really real
It’s just your point of view
How does it feel for you
Einstein said he could never understand it all
Planets spinning through space
The smile upon your face
Welcome to the human race
Some kind of lovely ride
I’ll be sliding down
I’ll be gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride
Isn’t it a lovely ride?
See me sliding down
Gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride
The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time

Try not to try too hard/It’s just a lovely ride.

It’s great advice, but “Welcome to the human race” is equally important. I’ve been able to enjoy the ride because I’m privileged, and most of that privilege has nothing to do with hard work. Today, it’s a combination of age, experience, and genetics that helps me appreciate my good fortune and empathize with others less fortunate.

I’ve written a lot about death and dying lately. There’s just too much of it. My friends are dying “natural” deaths. I read the obituary of another one this morning. I know that’s normal, but Hurricane Dorian is wreaking havoc in the Bahamas, and mass murderers in El Paso, Dayton, and Odessa took 39 lives last month… and that’s not normal. Those 39 and the residents of the Bahamas don’t deserve it and can’t enjoy the lovely ride no matter how hard they try. Sadly, their lives might have been spared if our elected officials had the courage and wisdom to legislate on climate and guns. Shame on them, and shame on us for not electing representatives willing to acknowledge and confront these problems.

But, it isn’t only death that deprives us of our friends and family. In the last few years I’ve lost a number of friends and family members–not to death but to dementia. In many ways, death is easier to cope with, more normal. It’s sudden and final. Dementia, on the other hand, is an especially cruel slow taking that leaves the body but destroys the brain.

A Facebook post by the daughter of an old friend of mine caught my eye recently. She was celebrating her Dad’s birthday and wrote that he “may not be able to Facebook anymore, but he still makes me laugh.” It was touching but enigmatic, so I asked her to explain. She told me that he/they were dealing with dementia. Mild now but progressing. I was devastated. He and I have known each other for 55 years. An accomplished painter, actor, and musician, I saw him in an Arthur Miller play Off-Broadway and heard him play guitar and sing at the Troubadour in LA, watched his regular gig with a musical group on the Andy Williams TV show, and marveled at his 30+ years in a leading role on a well-known soap opera.

We even “attended” Mick Jagger’s wedding to Bianca together, i.e. stood outside the Hotel de Ville with all the locals in St. Tropez to see the couple emerge from the ceremony and get in their Rolls Royce.

Other Singers

My favorite story about our friendship also took place in St. Tropez, and I never let him forget it. He and his wife were visiting from New York, and on that particular day, we were walking along the harbor-side quai toward Senequier, the famous people-watching bar, to have a glass of Rose de Provence, when a young woman with a pronounced Queens accent ran up and said, “Oh, Dr. Larry (not his name), I’m missing you.” Dr. Larry was the character he played on the soap and this star-struck young woman was desperate to know what was happening on the show while she was on vacation in France. “Dr. Larry,” smiling and gracious, filled her in, gave her an autograph, kissed her on the cheek, and she departed with a big smile. That’s just the kind of person he was. I suspect he’s still just as gracious. I don’t want to imagine him any other way, least of all as someone struggling to remember where he lives, how to drive, or who the person standing in front of him is.

Dementia touches more and more of us these days. I have a family member and two other friends dealing with the diagnosis and it isn’t just the patient that suffers. Time and again I see how the stress and pressure of patient care weighs on friends and relatives asked to make critical care decisions. It’s sad and painful. I’m reminded of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, who retired from the court to care for her Alzheimer’s afflicted husband, but who, in a particularly cruel turn of events, stood by helplessly as he attached himself romantically to another dementia patient in his Memory Care facility.

Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride
Now the thing about time is that time
Isn’t really real
It’s just your point of view
How does it feel for you
Einstein said he could never understand it all
Planets spinning through space
The smile upon your face
Welcome to the human race

Welcome to the human race. Remember, we only have one life to live, so we have to live it now in the best way we know while holding those important to us close.

Comments

  1. Good one Jack. As an older peer it was easy for me to recognize how close to home this piece was, As for the song, spot on and as I’ve found it easy to accomplish the first stanza but not the second except for my 3 generations of offspring. Still a great life and the only one we’ll have.

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