Today is my oldest child’s 29th birthday. Twenty-nine.

Birthdays aren’t the only days I spend wondering how in the holy hell I got here so fast. I lie awake a few nights a week thinking about the time I’ve spent here and how I’ve spent it, the time I estimate and hope I have left, and worrying that “you never know” when your time is up.

I think about all of the things I want to organize before I go – to leave a tidy gift of memories and tokens for my children.

I think about the quiet Facebook pages of friends who were posting comments and photos one day, and forever silenced the next. It’s so freaking random.

I think about my friends who have suffered the unspeakable loss of a child, and how I could never bring myself to acknowledge it at the time, because I’m incapable of articulating the extraordinary feelings that fill my heart and the part of their pain that I bear.

The past haunts me – poor decisions, good ones, too – time’s up now. I can’t turn back the wrinkles and age spots. I spent the first 40 years of my life getting to know the woman in the mirror, but now I hardly recognize her. I wish I’d known…. I wish I’d listened… I’m grateful nonetheless.

I’m not afraid – not really. It’s not death that scares me. It’s the dying part – or the outliving my loved ones part. It’s the emotional and physical pain I fear and want to avoid. My body betrays me even now as it heads down the other side of midlife.

A few years ago, my mother began to speak out loud about the inevitable day when her body will rest and her soul will rise. Rather than wait until then, she’s been gifting me my memories ever since in assorted boxes and envelopes.

Today I went through one of those boxes, filled with photos, letters, invitations… she had saved my entire adult life in that plastic tote. I found notes I had mailed to my grandmother that she had saved and gifted to my mother once upon a time.

It’s too fast, isn’t it? And yet, if I knew I was only a little more than halfway to drawing my last breath, would I then have an entire lifetime left to learn more lessons and love a little bigger? But you don’t get to know. No one does. Even people diagnosed with death often defy it – at least for a while. The unfinished business weighs heavy on my mind. The undone deeds seem more important, even as they slip down my to-do list. There may not be enough “somedays” left to write the unwritten letters and to say all the things still stuck on my tongue – or to clean out my garage.

John Mayer says it better than I ever could, with a steady, rhythmic percussion that brings it all home:

Stop This Train

No, I’m not colorblind
I know the world is black and white
I try to keep an open mind
But I just can’t sleep on this tonight

Stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t
But honestly, won’t someone stop this train?

Don’t know how else to say it
Don’t want to see my parents go
I’m one generation’s length away
From fighting life out on my own

Oh, come on, stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t
But honestly, won’t someone stop this train?

I’m so scared of getting older
I’m only good at being young
So I play the numbers game
To find a way to say my life has just begun

Had a talk with my old man
Said, “Help me understand”
He said “Turn 68, oh, you’ll re-negotiate”
“Don’t stop this train
Don’t for a minute change the place you’re in
And don’t think I couldn’t ever understand
I tried my hand
John, honestly we’ll never stop this train”

Oh, now, once in a while, when it’s good
It’ll feel like it should
And they’re all still around
And you’re still safe and sound
And you don’t miss a thing
‘Til you cry
When you’re driving away in the dark, yeah

Singing
Stop this train
I want to get off and go back home again
I can’t take the speed this thing moving in
I know I can’t
‘Cause now I see, I’m never gonna stop this train

Never gonna stop this train
Oh, I’m never gonna stop this train
Oh, I’m never gonna stop this train
Oh, I’m never gonna stop this train

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