Backward Engineering

Yesterday morning I posted this on Facebook:

I feel like I’m having a mid-life crisis. Time is flying by, my kids are growing up so fast, life changes in the blink of an eye. What is truly important in this life? How do I winnow the inessential? How do I make what remains count?

It was due, in part, to a country song called “You’re Gonna Miss This,” by Trace Adkins plus at least four friends my age being diagnosed with breast cancer in the last year; acquaintances losing family members to suicide recently; and a general sense of time passing by too quickly.

I only have my children 50% of the time and it doesn’t feel like enough – they grow and change so fast. My daughter is enrolling in high school already. She is two short years away from driving and I am already second or third fiddle to her friends. It’s natural and I knew it was coming and yet, I just want to tap the brakes from time to time.

A natural extension of this train of thought – for me at least – is to question, or at least evaluate, what I spend my time on – is it a good use of my time? Am I spending my precious, un-promised moments on things that a) matter and b) bring me joy?

I got a lot of good feedback on my post. One of the responses was from a dear friend who wrote: “Read beautifully written obituaries, and then decide what you want yours to say in 40 years…”

I have long been a fan of the inspiring obituary. Really. Probably not a surprise, since I am overly fond of looking outward for guidance. In any event I liked the idea and spent some time researching (natch…) and reading inspiring obituaries like this one, and this one.

And then I began to work on my own. And it goes a little something like this:

Jessica Johnson died peacefully in her sleep last week at the age of 80. The day she died was like any other; she woke at the crack of 8:00, made coffee, fed the cats, dogs, horses and other animals, and walked the two mile loop around the property she shared with her partner of 36 years, Scott Christie. An accomplished poet and novelist, Jessica spent most days at the large wooden desk Scott made for her reading and writing while he worked in his workshop nearby.

Jessica was born in 1967, the only child of the union of her mother, Nora Schewe and her father, William E. (Bill) Johnson, Jr. She was raised in Aptos and spent most of her life there until she and Scott moved to their Carmel Valley property in 2023 after an eight-year engagement and their wedding at Carmel City Hall.

Jessica was a third generation track athlete and enjoyed an distinguished athletic career. She was a three time All-American and was inducted into both her high school and college Halls of Fame for her accomplishments. She gave back to the sport through coaching and enjoyed watching Maya, Tosh and their children carry on the tradition. As Jessica liked to say; “Fast is the family business.”

Jessica’s greatest joys were her children, Maya and Tosh, her lifelong friends (Sally, Jodi, Charzet and Alannah), and her family – particularly her sister, Juniper, to whom she donated a kidney in 2013. She loved cooking and spending hours around the table eating and laughing with her “framily.”

Jessica and Scott’s children inspired her every day and her heart was full with pride at their accomplishments in life. Maya and Tosh remember their mom as goofy and beautiful and willing to talk about anything with an open mind. She supported them enthusiastically and wholeheartedly and encouraged them to follow their dreams, never be afraid of change and always be brave. Among their most treasured memories are the big trips Jessica loved to plan and take – London and Paris, Spain, The Summer in the Italian Villa, summers at Kennedy Meadows, and of course, the cross country RV trip! Early on she wanted to make sure the kids went to all the countries their ancestors were from so they went to England, Ireland, France,Germany,Croatia, Serbia, Norway and the Bahamas. She tried to balance fun with practicality and always had a Plan B.

A long-time student of Buddhism and meditation, Jessica led a life of curiosity and contemplation. She was nourished by silence, naps and foot rubs – which her husband, Scott, was always willing to provide. Together they enjoyed putting countless miles on the motorcycle, discovering new restaurants and spending quiet time side by side. They both felt extremely fortunate to have found each other later in life and liked to say, “the third time is the charm!”

Jessica loved to dance in kitchen (preferably to disco), bake Christmas cookies from her grandmother’s recipes, listen to the birds in the morning and the smell of horses. She believed in the healing power of pink wine and belly laughs, manifesting your biggest dreams, and that if you have lived your life well you will live on in the hearts, minds and souls of those who knew you.

She did. And she will.

You will find her ashes under the red Japanese maple tree.

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