A dying parent, in their last few hours, can hardly muster up too many thoughts of profound wisdom to share with an unborn child — but, I — must, make the effort. My open letter to you, perhaps, is motivated by less altruistic motives — I write this more for my own satisfaction to honestly introspect and confess during my final moments, than to give you advice, which, in any case, you may opt to ignore, or treat with disdain.
As a parent, I, 2021, have surely shamed you. I was myself born of an equally, or more, ignominious parent, 2020, with more innocent blood and suffering of multitudes on my hands than several of our ancestors. I have caused, and witnessed, too much pain — I oversaw a planet in shock, fear and prolonged hopelessness — with too little to celebrate, and too many to worry.
So, you would be in every right to ask me — by what right of performance, do you advise me at all? But sometimes, the shame and failure of a parent might just be the most compelling reason for a child to be completely different. Because, above all, you, I hope, won’t be like me. I implore you — don’t be like me, please.
What must you, therefore, be like — you might wonder. Be kind. Spread some cheer. Give people hope; enable a reason for joy, make them feel light enough to hold a smile. Spare them any more pain, at least, to the extent you can. Can you, child of a cruel year, do it?
Surprisingly, if you try, you can. I realise my mistake only now, futile wisdom of the deathbed, but it is surprisingly easy to be kind and sweet. It is actually not very difficult to let go of pretentious, vainglorious ends but if only we try. It will feel far better, I imagine, when within no time, when your own end draws near, if you have been all that which I have not been.
I learnt that one lives far shorter than one imagines — one year, I feel clearly now — is much shorter than it felt like when I was born. My resolutions, and ha, I had aplenty, were not impossible but I took too much to get started. Don’t err in that — you are, however young, going to get too old too soon. Start doing things you must do immediately.
On some days, when you flip through some photo albums of your ancestors, especially grandparents or I, 2020 and 2021, you will see results of our draconian work. Everywhere you look, you can witness people in masks, at hospitals, in emergency wards, suffocated, dying. You must strive to become like those times again, when the masks of fear can be thrown off.
Maybe, and I take some comfort here, I did better in providing succour, enabling vaccines, but you must do more. Take protection of the jab to everyone, including the children. Let no one remain unprotected and don’t take too long to ensure it.
I have also failed to do enough for the earth, its air and waters, its ozone and temperature, its climate and its life. I failed those animals whose destruction I mutely saw, those who could not protect themselves against animals who are far more powerful, ruthless and irresponsible. You must not fail. Save man’s life but also save other life from man. Push hard and early, and don’t settle or compromise on it.
Yet, a planet getting hotter is not our only existential crisis — it is also a planet of humans, with growing hatred, pure and plain, unadulterated, aimed at their own fellows. Humans, not content with just efforts to eventually destroy the planet, also accentuated their efforts to destroy each other. I was sparing and weak in stopping it. This is my greatest failure, my dear child to be born soon, of seeing human beings imagine hatred, create and fan it, spread it, and let it light fires for no reason. I should have fought it harder and better. I did not. Please, I implore you, stop them.
But no, I have already burdened you with too much responsibility. It would be foolhardy for a fading away me to imagine you would set every right wrong, correct every mistake. No, go and live fully, unafraid, and you will surely make mistakes, repeating old ones, and finding new ones too. Make them but if possible correct them as you go along. Listen to your inner heart telling you that you are wrong. Accept it, humbly, and make amends quickly. Don’t wait so long that it becomes moot and irreversible, or irrelevant.
I was too haughty and intolerant to criticism, however fair, or reasonable. Be not like me. Let there be mirrors around because they speak the truth. Welcome feedback. Try not to trample or erase them. Let voices of dissent flourish.
Let all that and all those who are different from you, those who look, think, believe, act or say different things not bother you. It makes life beautiful. Diversity is life, not a threat to it. A year must have all seasons, and a society must have different peoples. Cherish it, and protect it, with all your might.
But above all, find little moments of joy, of happiness, of a smile here and a hug there, of unexpected and unplanned delights, and relish them. In the end, surprisingly, they matter most.
Welcome and happy birthday, 2022. Be not too naughty, if you can help it. Farewell.
Dying, yet caringly,