Douglas Fairbanks & Lady Sylvia Ashley with their beloved dogs, Marco Polo & Daisy, 1938

It seems I have reached that juncture in life where some relationships have come full circle. It’s an odd thing to switch roles and take care of the people who once cared for you, but I suppose it’s a natural evolution.

Many of my friends are now having to help make decisions, become caregivers and in some cases, help their parents and loved ones die. One friend just informed me that her mother with Altzheimer’s has recently been given a morphine drip and is coming to the end of her journey. Another friend has had to assume responsibility for his elderly mother and his family’s estate since she is no longer capable. Yet another friend wrote me this morning that her beloved dog just died at the age of seventeen.

With very young parents (and two middle aged cats), I’m a long way off from those particular crossroad, but I am dealing with the end of my grandmother’s life. In some ways, Gam has been like a parent to me. When my young mother decided to go back to college and earn her degree, it was my grandmother who took care of me: feeding me, entertaining, nurturing me. I just returned from a visit where I now do the same for her. I try to quell her anxieties and confusion the same way she used to comfort me when I was afraid of the dark. That’s what you do when you love someone, no matter their age or species.

Though she left Paddington and never looked back, Silky supported her mother the whole of her life. When her mother grew ill, she returned to her old neighborhood and took care of all the arrangements for the end of her mother’s life. As an avid animal lover, she said goodbye to many beloved dogs throughout her life. And as a widow, Silky also knew that devastating loss and grief.

There’s nothing like sickness, dementia and death to remind you of the fragility of life. Awareness and gratitude shows us the rich and joyous beauty of the time we each have left. What would you do if you knew you were going to die tomorrow?