I believe our lives are best thought of as a painting by the famous Impressionist artist Georges Seurat. In the method of painting known as Pointillism, Seurat used single dots of color to create landscapes and portraits rich in complexity, reflecting the importance of the individual to the whole.
After my step-father died in 1998, I found myself consumed with thoughts of his last twenty-four hours. For several years, I could not get past those final days. It became maddening to not be able to remember the entire eighteen years we spent together. Instead, I maintained a focus on what was only a brief part of his life.
Finally, the fallacy of this thinking occurred to me one afternoon while talking with my grandmother. As usual, she was relating news updates concerning various members of our family. One cousin had recently given birth, another was graduating from college, and it was the anniversary of someone else’s death. As my grandmother spoke, I reflected on the meaning of those moments.
Slowly, I began to reevaluate the way in which we view our lives. It seems we celebrate the birthdays, baptisms, homecoming dances, prom nights, graduations, marriages, pregnancies, and other such events. We unpack our cameras for these brief moments. We scrapbook the mementos, send cards, and mark our calendars for the coming year so as not to forget these special days. And yet, we ignore all the moments in between.
What a tragedy to forget the simple peace of sitting side by side with someone you love flipping through the television channels. How unfortunate to not see the blessings in those moments of physical and emotional health while waiting for the next love of your life. Isn’t it humorous to remember how fat you believed your thighs were at age fifteen?
Recently, I have received invitations to my high school and pharmacy school class reunions. Well intentioned friends have e-mailed condensed autobiographies itemizing such details as martial status, children, careers, pets, and interesting vacations. I read through each one carefully, and respond with a brief synopsis of my own, although I’m finding it increasingly difficult to focus on the same priorities. Finally, when I turn off my computer, I lie in bed with my current favorite book and my Maine Coon cat stretched out across my chest. Together we enjoy a nap. These moments will be brief as well, but are no less important to me now.