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Life – only time will tell what comes next

NIAGARA, Wis. — There were two instances in just this past week where I was reminded that my husband and I are definitely on the downward slope of our lives. We had been talking about how we wanted to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. I had always wanted to see Montana — something about its nickname “Big Sky Country” has always intrigued me. I had heard about Whitefish from a friend with whom I used to work so, after reviewing their website, I ordered a guide from their visitor’s bureau.

As we were perusing its pages, my husband made the comment, “I wish we could have afforded to travel like this when we were younger.” He was, of course, noticing all of the outdoor recreational activities that involved hiking some pretty rugged terrain, rock climbing and whitewater rafting. We did our fair share of all those things across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula when we were younger, but our aging bodies cannot take that kind of wear and tear now. Not actually doing these types of activities does not bother me as much — I do not possess the adventurous spirit that my husband does, so I am a lot more cautious in my selection of excursions. Time in a coffee shop in the middle of cruising specialty shops suits me just fine, and a window seat on a tour bus with someone else doing the driving works for me, too.

For me, the concern for “how much time do I have left” came when I was thinking about updating my kitchen. We moved into our house in 1978 and put in new kitchen cupboards at that time. We selected quality, solid oak cabinets custom made right here in Iron Mountain. They cost all of $1,800 back then for the entire kitchen. I am afraid to think what they would cost today. They have held up beautifully over the years as we renovated the rest of the kitchen around them in 2004, but they are very dated and dark. I would love to do another kitchen renovation, armed with all of the ideas I now have after watching HGTV all of these years. But I found myself wondering how much time I had left and would such a remodel at this time in my life be worth the expenditure. How much longer are we going to be in this house? And even if we are still living here, will I still be cooking like I do now?

I have to admit, thoughts like these are a bit disconcerting. I have never really spent a lot of time contemplating the end of my life; I have always been too busy living it and finding a way to get through each day, each month, each year. I will always remember my mother’s answer to the question I asked her in the last year of her life, “Are you afraid of dying?” She answered simply and without hesitation, “I am not afraid of my own death — just the death of someone I love.” By the time she had lived her 92 years, she had experienced a lot of loss, but she was completely comfortable with the upcoming end of her own life. It was a great comfort to me to hear that at the time. I hope I can be as ready for my end as my mother was for hers.

Not that long ago, I had watched an interview with Norman Lear, creator of many 1970s sitcoms such as “All in the Family.” His answer to that same question I had posed to my mother had intrigued me. At 98 years old, he said, “I am not afraid of ‘going’ but ‘leaving’ is another matter.” When we are going somewhere new, we are anticipating the unknown. For many — like Norman Lear — that anticipation of the journey ahead is exhilarating and filled with possibilities. They approach that journey with a curiosity that fills them with excitement. On the other hand, we are all fully aware of the life we have just lived. We know there are people we are leaving behind and experiences we will no longer share with loved ones. We know what we will miss when our time is up on this Earth, so those emotions can be very different.

Of course, our expectations of the hereafter also depend upon our belief system. If you are a religious person, your faith has helped you come to a comforting acceptance of what is in store for you. If your understanding of the hereafter is more centered around a spirituality based in nature with the passing of its cyclical seasons, there is comfort there as well. Of course, there is no way to know until the time comes.

So, what does all of this mean for us now? How do we come to appreciate the leaving as much as we anticipate the going? Maybe the answer to that million-dollar question lies in a Greek proverb I stumbled upon recently that states: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” Maybe what it all boils down to is working to be our best selves each and every day and remembering that we are not alone here; we are responsible to our fellow man along life’s journey. By doing so, we will naturally leave the kind of legacy in which we can take pride.

A legacy means many different things to just as many different people. For some, it is important that they have built a career in which they can take pride and for which they will be remembered for the impact they had on society. For others, the pride comes from simply working hard at whatever it takes to raise and support a family, living up to responsibilities, and putting down roots that will sustain future generations. Still others find fulfillment in their freedom from responsibility as they make their way through lives unencumbered by schedules and deadlines; they thrive on spontaneity and do a good job at whatever they choose in the moment until boredom spurs them on to something new. We all have different goals and motivations in life. We all take different paths to fulfilling our dreams and are free to do so as long as we do no harm along the way.

I will end these thoughts for today with reference to some wise words sent to me via a Facebook post by a friend.

“Let’s try, despite everything, to enjoy the remaining time. Let’s keep looking for activities that we like. Let’s put some color in our grey. Let’s smile at the little things in life that put balm in our hearts. And despite everything, we must continue to enjoy with serenity this time we have left. Let’s try to eliminate the afters… I’m doing it after … I’ll say it after … I’ll think about it after. We leave everything for later like ‘after’ is ours. Afterwards life ends, and then it’s too late. So… let’s leave nothing for later. The day is today… the moment is now. We are no longer at the age where we can afford to postpone what needs to be done right away.”

Do you need to visit your kids and grandkids more often? Do you need to repair a broken friendship or fix a damaged relationship with a sibling? Do you want to take that vacation or remodel that kitchen? Now is the time. Let’s live our best lives now, in the moment, so we will not mind the “leaving”… while “going” to whatever comes next.

——

NURSING HOMES

The usual senior living activity calendars and senior center menus will not be published this week in an effort to avoid confusion. Due to the coronavirus and the vulnerability of the elderly population, daily life in the senior living facilities and senior centers has changed dramatically.

Some senior living centers are now allowing limited visitation by family members. For details, contact the nursing home or senior center you are interested in visiting.

SENIOR CENTERS

Alpha-Mastodon Center

906-875-3315

Amasa Center

906-822-7284

The Amasa Center is a curbside pick-up-only kitchen for now. Call ahead for Tuesdays through Thursdays. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Chop suey, rice, Oriental vegetables and lettuce.

Wednesday: Barbecue pork on a bun, baked beans and bean salad.

Thursday: Pasties, mixed vegetables and coleslaw.

Note: All meals served with milk, bread and butter, fruit and dessert.

Breen Center

906-774-5110

Call for home delivery or a to-go box. Menu for the week —

Monday: Lasagna, green beans and garlic bread.

Tuesday: Pork chops, rice and mixed vegetables.

Wednesday: Beef stew and biscuit.

Thursday: Breakfast eggs, pancakes and sausage.

Note: All meals served with a choice of skim milk or juice and fruit.

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen

906-875-6709

Crystal Lake Center

Iron Mountain

906-239-0278

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and baked beans.

Tuesday: Chicken cordon bleu casserole, California blend vegetables and roll.

Wednesday: Chili, corn bread and side salad with dressing.

Thursday: Chicken alfredo, egg noodles and Italian blend vegetables.

Friday: Turkey wrap, carrot salad, chips and Jell-O.

Note: All meals served with a choice of skim milk, juice, or no beverage.

For more information, call Christine McMahon at 906-774-2256

Felch Center

906-246-3559

Now open with limited seating from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Barbecue beef, chips and coleslaw.

Wednesday: Ham, sweet potato bake, peas and salad.

Thursday: Chicken bake, oven-browned potatoes and winter blend vegetables.

Note: All meals served with skim milk or juice.

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.

715-528-4890

Director: Tiffany White

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Chef’s salad with beans, breadsticks and cottage cheese with peaches.

Tuesday: Chili, cornbread, cucumbers in sour cream and fruit.

Wednesday: Baked turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, green beans, rolls, cranberry sauce, fruit pie and ice cream .

Thursday: Country ribs, parsley potatoes, sauerkraut, peans and carrots, fruit and pudding.

Friday: Tuna salad on a bun, lettuce and tomato, oven-roasted potatoes, broccoli and fruit.

Note: All meals served with whole grain bread and butter and milk.

Fence Center/Town Hall

715-336-2980

For meal reservations, call 855-528-2372

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-528-4261

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Tipler Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-674-2320

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

For meal reservations, call 715-589-4491

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska

906-498-7735

Iron River Center

906-265-6134

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Taco, beans, rice, fruit, milk or juice.

Tuesday: Ham, scalloped potatoes, broccoli, fruit, milk or juice.

Wednesday: Vegetable beef soup, hand and cheese sandwich, fruit, milk or juice.

Thursday: Spaghetti and meatballs, cauliflower, breadsticks, dessert, milk or juice.

Norway Center

Director: Michelle DeSimone

906-563-8716

The center will remain closed; however, takeout meals will be prepared for pick up — those picking up must call ahead and wear a mask. Menu for the week —

Monday: Salmon, cheesy potatoes and Italian blend vegetables.

Tuesday: Breaded chicken patty on a bun, peas and potato salad.

Wednesday: Finnish pancake, sausage, hash brown patty and strawberries.

Thursday: Sausage roll-up, breadstick and sugar snap peas.

All meals include milk, juice, fruit, bread and dessert.

Sagola Center

906-542-3273

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Cheesy chicken and broccoli bake, breadstick and peaches.

Wednesday: Sausage and egg sandwich, apple slices and muffin.

Thursday: Swedish meatballs, egg noodles, peas and mixed fruit.

All meals served with fruit and choice of skim milk or juice.

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