Just when we think we've got something nailed, just when we think it's all going our way, we get upended by some cosmic trip wire. "Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans," John Lennon once said. He might have said the same of Death. Like so many other people (just take a look at the number of comments from HuffPost readers reacting to the news), I felt sick when I saw the news bulletin about the death of Barack Obama's grandmother, the woman who raised him, who sacrificed so much to see him go so far. Obama had already lost his father and mother, as well as his grandfather. 86 year old Madelyn Payne Dunham was among the very few people on the planet who still shared Obama's personal history, who knew the intimate details of his boyhood and the years when, as a young man, he would accomplish so very much.
And on the eve of what might be his greatest accomplishment so far, the woman he called "Toot" died quietly in her sleep, finally losing her battle with cancer. A number of thoughts went through my head when I heard the news: "No fair, just one more day, if only she had lived to see"....well, you know those thoughts. Anyone who has ever lost someone close to them knows those thoughts. Perhaps that is why so many people, including the McCains, were moved to send condolences within a virtual nanosecond of hearing the news.
I often wish my own parents could have lived to see, among other things, the birth of their great-grandsons. But let's face it -- these vicarious "bucket lists" are really endless. And pointless. Because we get to live long enough to see just so much and no more. That's the deal. Not long before he died, my Dad told me and my brother that he was proud of us, not because of what we had "accomplished," but because of the sort of people we had turned out to be. It was the greatest compliment he ever gave us. I have a feeling that what we value most at the end of our lives is not what we spent so much time chasing after in our younger years. I have a feeling that "Toot" knew very well what her grandson had "accomplished." And she didn't need an electoral vote count to confirm it.