Friday, 8 February 2013

January Is a Cruel Month: the Carpe Diem Files

Four  friends lost parents in January.  All of the deceased were in their 80s or older--and one, our neighbor Mary Macdonnel Bélisle, was 106. 

My mother, whose birthday was in January, always said that it was a terrible month, not only because the weather and the length of daylight are so depressing, but also because, with its 31 days, it seems interminable. 

The end comes to everything, though, and, even though the deaths of this quartet were not unexpected, the sadness and loss are very real.  I am sorry that we never knew Mary Bélisle before she began to decline--she moved back into the house of her childhood only about 7 years ago--because it's quite clear she was a woman of substance.  She entered McGill in 1924 at a time when there were few women students, took honours in English and French, taught high school for years, and then at 37 married and had four children who do her and her husband Alfred, who kept a general store in the small town of Lebel in the Laurentians north of Montreal, immense credit.  Apparently she read The Economist well into her 90s and knew reams of Shakespeare and other literary greats.

 The days are longer now: it was growing light before 6 a.m. this morning, and the sun will not set until after 5 p.m. That lifts the spirits.  But we almost must realize that, while days will continue without number, we will not.  I coming to think that we  must live each day as something precious and strive to leave a world that is no worse than the one we were born into--and perhaps a bit better.

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