Column: Use the good china

Last week, I got the news that a cousin of mine passed away at the much-too-young-age of 65. He was a bright, funny, warm man, with a wonderful wife and two loving daughters. He was also a proud grandfather.

It was cancer that ravaged his body, I’m told.

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We weren’t particularly close, since we lived in different cities, but I knew him well enough to know that he was a special man. The song, “Only the good die young,” reminds me that often that is the sad truth. There is no understanding such events; no comprehension of why. It’s merely life playing out, unkindly.

Against all reason, I try to figure out the logic behind this. Yet I always come up empty-handed. I can do nothing more than place it in the category of unfairness. None of us gets to pick when we leave this earth, but the world (nature?) has brainwashed us into believing that old people are supposed to die first, then the younger generation is next in line. With people living well into their 90s and beyond, a man of 65 is certainly not next in line.

Being 62, it strikes a little too close to home. I have every intention (ha!) of living to at least 90-something, but with my cousin’s death, I’m pushed to re-evaluate everything. It makes me wonder – should I make an Advance Health Care Plan, with a Representation Agreement and an Advance Directive? Am I too young for that? Apparently not.

Which brings me to the china and the bit of fancy stuff we own. I’m reminded of my dear father, alav ha-shalom, who, when asked why he uses a white linen napkin at every meal, replied: “Because I’m the most important guest in my own home.” And there you have it.

Every day should be celebrated: wear your favourite clothes, eat your favourite foods, use the good china.

In contrast, my late mother, may she rest in peace, when she would see me wearing a special dress or high-heeled shoes on a weekday (for no particular reason) would often say: “Why don’t you save those for good?” (meaning for going out). So, that dress and those shoes would sit in my closet collecting dust, while I waited for an opportunity to go somewhere nice.

Harvey’s mom, and others of her generation, used to cover the furniture and lampshades in plastic, so they wouldn’t get dirty. Imagine never being allowed to sit directly on your own couch!

Different people, different outlooks on life. I’ve decided to go with the good china and live each day like it’s the most important one in my life. Which, it kind of is.

Life gives us no guarantees, except for death and taxes. It all boils down to personal choice and how we really want to live our lives. I’ll be responsible about it, naturally, but my cousin’s passing is a blatant reminder to live life with no regrets, embrace the bounty in our lives, and see each day as a blessing.

I may just use my expensive crystal wine glasses to drink water from tonight. Because I can.

Shelley Civkin, the retired “Face of Richmond,” was a Librarian & Communications Officer at Richmond Public Library for nearly 30 years, and author of a weekly book review column for 17 years.

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