A friend of mine recently sent me a poem that had been written by her mother, Hazel Jex, in the early 1970s. The poem, From A Railway Carriage, was a string of descriptive observations that Hazel bore witness to as she journeyed to and from her place of work.
Her words struck me as incredibly poignant, not only because they described an existence that, for many, feels like being stuck in the dreaded rat race, but also because Hazel is now suffering from dementia.
So many of us wait for what we believe will be 'the golden years.' We put life on the back burner whilst we attend to the pressing demands of jobs that we don't enjoy to provide money for things we don't need. In essence, we don't live; we function.
We wait for our retirement to enjoy the fruit of our labors. We don't pay attention to the fact that summers come and go, each year bringing fruit that's already ripe, already full of wonder.
Reading Hazel's poem prompted me to write an article on Alzheimer's (When Someone You Love No Longer Recognizes You published via The Huffington Post here). I felt that her message was designed to travel, just like she did on all those train journeys she took, many years ago.
For me, the message isn't to live in fear of what might happen. The message isn't to live in a state of terror and angst. For me, the message is simply to live. Now. Today. To share our gifts and our love and our fears and our vulnerabilities. To live to the fullest extent of who we are. All of who we are. It's all we have. And it's everything.
From A Railway Carriage by Hazel Jex
Carriages full of sombre, city types
Bowler hats, Financial Times, and pin stripes
Passing exposed backyards, sad and bare
Commuters up to town inevitably stare
Catching glimpses of other peoples lives
Absent husbands, discontented, sad wives
Down-at-heel slippers, once bright and gay
Now appear bedraggled, dirty and grey
Fractious children, whining and clinging
Strains from the radio, Rod Stewart singing
Limp, greasy hair pinioned in steel
Whilst the lunchtime gravy begins to congeal
Whilst pegging out sodden washing, does she dream
Of romantic islands, lovers, strawberries and cream
Her mind escaping from the depressing scene
Wanting relief from the same old routine
An unkempt dog solemnly scratches its back
Ignoring the sound of the train on the track
A splash of color intrudes time from time
Incongruous amidst the filth and the grime
Tall, golden sunflowers, proud and erect
Scarlet geraniums, not quite what you'd expect
From such surroundings, lacking in soul
Poorly educated kids, men on the dole
Smug passengers peer, think they're not the same
As the people they pass like a picture in a frame
Not realizing that they are trapped too
As they hurriedly dash for the seven fifty two
They arrive at the office just before nine
People to greet, tea and letters to sign
A sentence to serve, just passing time
Like a prisoner being punished for a crime
The great exodus begins just about five
Grey--ghost people, more dead than alive
Money in the bank, large car, but at what cost?
Not worth sun-filled summers irretrievably lost