As he said goodbye, it hit me.
A son returning to college. It’s a common occurrence. But when James, my younger son, leaned over and said “See you in a couple months,” to MaryEllen and Kevin, I began to wonder.
What must it feel like for MaryEllen and Kevin to know their siblings are grown and leaving home to have lives of their own? Do they feel slighted? Are they sad that they don’t get to experience an independent life outside of our home? I hadn’t thought about this since they were young, when it was too far off to worry about.
Then, as quick as those thoughts passed, others began to fill my head, comments that I have heard and seen regarding MaryEllen and Kevin throughout their lives.
“I would never want to live like that.”
“How could you let them live like that?”
I don’t often feel sad when I think about MaryEllen and Kevin. Times like this day, though, brought these uneasy feelings to the forefront.
What is a good quality of life and do they have it?
From my perspective, I think they do. They are loved beyond measure and they know it. But is that all it takes to have a good quality of life? My other two ‘typical’ children are loved beyond measure as well.
As I contemplated the depth of these questions, I came to this: A good quality of life is not traveling or making lots of money or doing everything and anything you ever wanted to do, it’s doing what makes YOU happy. We are all different. What brings me joy may not bring the same for you.
Realizing this, I began to ponder what brings joy to MaryEllen and Kevin. They certainly do feel joy and contentment, even more than you and I, I would bet.
MaryEllen and Kevin are most content when they are surrounded by those that love them, which is every second of every day. Do they feel unhappy about not having a job or not going away to college or getting married? I don’t think so. For them, as long as they feel loved and their immediate needs are met, they are happy. They really don’t know sadness. They don’t know hate. They have never experienced feeling ‘less than’ or unwanted.
Who can say the same? Certainly not me. Probably not you either.
For some, maybe living “a life like that,” (whatever that means) wouldn’t be a good quality of life. But from MaryEllen’s and Kevin’s perspectives, maybe our lives are less than ideal. I mean, who would want to get up on a dead cold winter’s morning and rush through the ice and snow to be met with other grouchy drivers in the morning rush hour when you can stretch out in a massage chair with a good book being narrated by your favorite author and with a single grimace or increase in heart rate, people come running from all directions to give you what you want?
I think MaryEllen and Kevin have discovered the secret. A life well lived is experiencing unconditional love all the time. A life well lived is smiling and being able to feel that smile from deep within. A life well lived is being able to savor all the good life has to offer while disregarding the bad.
MaryEllen and Kevin do this without effort.
Just brilliant, isn’t it?