Last weekend we visited my wife’s parents. They don’t live so far from us—about 90 minutes by car—but I hadn’t seen them in over six months because I’ve been preoccupied with large life changes this year: my parents both passed away in the spring—my mother in March and my father in May—and I was making dazed journeys from Japan to the U.S.
My wife and my kids had paid two or three visits to see her parents during this time, but because I hadn’t, I was struck by how much older they appeared. I mean, they’re both still in fairly good health, but her father is now in his early 80s and her mother is nearly 80, too.
The hard reality is, the end of their lives—and the end of the time my children can spend with their maternal grandparents—is approaching, though it’s hard to say how much time actually remains.
This time is finite
That’s the thing: We never really know how much time is left for us to interact with grandparents or other loved ones in this life. And the irony, I think, is that even though we know—we absolutely know—that this time is finite, we somehow behave as if it’s not.
On one hand, I’m happy to say that I did what I realistically could, given the great distance between Japan and the U.S., to maintain an active relationship between my parents and my family. And I did this, of course, not only to milk the minority language exposure that this connection could provide, but also to create a meaningful and memory-filled bond between my children and my parents.
On the other hand, though, I don’t think I fully appreciated how fleeting this precious time would actually be. Even as my parents grew older, and their health began to fail, I still didn’t really grasp the idea that they would die, perhaps even soon, and that our time with them—at least in this world—would come to an end.
No second chances
To be honest, I still can’t really grasp that my parents are now gone from our lives. The finality of that fact is so crushing to contemplate…I guess I’m just not ready to fully believe it. I even feel the impulse to call my mother, as I regularly did, and I wonder if maybe, just maybe, she’ll pick up the phone and I’ll hear her voice…
But no, I don’t call. There would only be silence.
Friends, my message today is simply this…
Make the most of the precious time you have with grandparents and other loved ones. They may live far from you, as my parents did, but try to stay mindful of the fact that your time together on this earth is finite, is fleeting, and do what you realistically can to maintain an active and loving relationship. Once they’re gone, there are no second chances.
To celebrate their lives
As I mentioned, my father died in May, after my mother, but because I was still in Japan at the time, and the memorial service didn’t take place until a couple of weeks later, I had the chance to make a short film about his life which could be shown at that service.
In my mother’s case, though, I was already in the U.S. when she passed away and the memorial service was held less than a week later. Because I wasn’t able to contribute to her service as I would have liked, as I could with my father, I wanted to make up for this by creating a film about her life, too.
I completed this film yesterday and I’d now like to share both films with you, to celebrate the lives that they led.
This short film is a celebration of Katrine Aho’s life and music.
Watch this film at my YouTube channel.
This short film is a celebration of Al Beck’s life, art, and music.
Watch this film at my YouTube channel.
Download my father’s music at CD Baby.
Read previous posts about my parents, and articles about grandparents in general…
My Father Has Passed Away, Too
“I Spoke Both Finnish and English”: I Interview My Mother on Her Bilingual Childhood
Bilingual Kids and Grandparents: Make the Most of This Opportunity
Bilingual Children and Distant Grandparents: What We’ve Done
3 Good Ways to Boost a Bilingual Child’s Language Ability and Loving Bond with Grandparents
Guest Post: Extraordinary Grandparents – Extraordinary Moments
Are Your Bilingual Kids Writing Letters in the Minority Language?
A Powerful Twist on the Use of Skype to Promote the Minority Language