By Kevin Palmer
Saturday, June 5, 2010
My generation is at an interesting point in time.
I am at the tail end of the baby boomer generation and the tail end
of my family, having been born in 1960 and the seventh of eight
children; I have always been trying to catch up with my generational siblings.
As boomers, we have always had the world at our beck and call. In the
'60s and '70s we changed the world with our music and anti-war and
liberal protests. During the '80s and '90s we were the economic power
that drove the information age expansion. During the most recent
decade we ushered in the hangover of living beyond our means.
Now we are experiencing our mortality.
Aside from some aches and pains, I feel pretty healthy. It is my
generational peers that I worry about. Our discussions now focus on
health-related issues and pragmatic matters of life and death.
Last fall, during a span of 10 weeks, three people I was close to
passed away. It started in late August when without warning a
sister-in-law, Becky, died of an aneurism. Actually, she was a
sister-in-law of my sister-in-law, but she was very close to my wife,
Linda, and we were all part of a larger group of family and friends.
Becky's death was very troubling, since it was a lightning bolt out
of nowhere. I was on the golf course with my brother when the news
came that she was being rushed to a hospital. My brother and I jumped
into a cart, abandoning the other two golfers. Becky died shortly
after the first call.
Becky brought a unique perspective to life, and every time she
entered a room my first thought was that she belonged on a sandy
In September, Linda and I received news that a dear friend, Candy,
was on the verge of passing away after a five-year battle with cancer.
In the spring, Linda and I visited with Candy and her husband, Jim.
In early September, Linda visited with Candy. Two weeks later, we got
the call that she died and we set off to Boulder, Colo., to pay our
Our two families became close friends more than 20 years ago as
neighbors in Spanish Lake. There were times when I came home from
work and Linda and Candy were discussing some obscure poem or the
meaning of life over a glass of wine.
Then came October. My brother, Scott, who lived in Camp Hill, Pa.,
was diagnosed last summer with pancreatic cancer. We received regular
reports through the summer and fall and I accompanied my 84 year-old
mother on a trip to visit him. He died an hour before our plane landed.
Scott was buried a week later with full military honors on his 63rd
birthday. He was my oldest sibling, and throughout my life I thought
of him as the "perfect one." He had a great life, a beautiful family
and a modesty inversely proportional to his many accomplishments.
I am 50 years old this year and coming to grips with my limitations.
At this point in my life I finally figured out it is not about past
achievements, or for that matter what still needs to be done.
Instead, there is a slow realization that living for the moment is
where I should focus.
Boomers have lived their lives with a passion, participated in some
of the greatest advancements of history, and now are at the beginning
of the end. Our mortgages are being paid off and we are getting ready
for retirement. The only question that remains is how will each of us
complete our time?
Will we use these last several years reaching for goals with the
passion that has driven our individual and generational
accomplishments? Or will we simply relax and take care of those quiet
passions that were never undertaken because they would not have paid the bills?
Whatever you choose, it is important to remember those words by
Mother Teresa: "Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have
Kevin Palmer of St. Peters is chief information officer for Columbia
College. Opinion Shapers are chosen annually to write columns on
topics of interest to them.