It has been three years since my mom’s departure from this earth. I have struggled mightily with grief, longing and feelings of helplessness. I have worked to honor her gifts to me – the beauty of water, sky, trees, birds, mountain vistas, that swing on the porch, an open book in my hands, a spontaneous dance (perhaps a do-si-do during the Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion playing on the radio or an arms high swirl and twirl to the sound of Cynthia Clawson’s “Immortal, Invisible.”) She was a studious woman who loved the deeper questions. She was a prayerful woman of deep faith accompanied by doubts and, yes, fears. She was funny. She was a grateful and frugal woman who taught me how to live richly no matter my financial circumstances. She kept a tidy, well-organized home where even if the windows were old and in disrepair they glistened due to her polishing hand. She was a natural beauty without a touch of glamour. She never understood how deeply I adored her, how very much I wanted to care for her, to protect her and comfort her after my father died and as she aged and needed advocacy and support. Today I discovered this recollection of my still living mom and my musings on loss. This is from The Community Reporter, August 2017.
THIS PRESENT PACE: Are These Our "Wonder Years"?
It is so quiet here I can absorb the sound of the creek as it babbles over the rocks and hear the distinct songs of the Orioles. We are travellers, Michael and I, wandering and wondering these last many days. At the Pancake House in Sylvan Beach, N.Y. a fifty-something man refilled our coffee cups telling us he had spent his "wonder years" in the Midwest. "Wonder years," I thought. Then I thought of the Fred Savage television show from my children's youth and couldn't help humming the tune to its theme song, "Forever Young." Over the many miles from St. Paul to Northern Michigan; across the Mackinaw Bridge and on to Port Huron then Niagara Falls, the Adirondacks, Michael's brother's place near the Delaware River, the Finger Lakes and the visit with our children and their
children in their home in the woods some miles from Syracuse, my thoughts returned to the concept of wonder. Lately, I have wondered a great deal about the aging process and the inevitability of loss. We recently sat terrified and numb as our oldest child's life was saved in the nick of time and he narrowly escaped a death by drowning as his heart valve failed and his lungs filled with fluid. A dear friend's amazing adult daughter died in the presence of her mother, father and husband the same day our son was saved through surgery. Sunday I sat close to my mom and sang the birthday song "Eighty-Eight Candles… (Make a lovely light)" and I wondered at my great good fortune to have a still living mom at my advanced age. Michael and I discussed the concept of the wonder years and determined those years are now. More than ever our days are spent wondering about all we cannot guess the meaning of, though, somehow, we always thought in time we would know. I wonder at the human capacity to accept what comes our way and how it is we find a space to let in the joy and to laugh, sing and dance. Time speeds up as we age and all that has seemed a vague and distant possibility begins to throw one pellet and then another our way and, if we haven't yet been felled by great grief, we wonder when our turn will come. Pema Chodrun urges us toward a practice of living beautifully in times of uncertainty and change. Wendell Berry offers "The Peace of Wild Things".
Mary Oliver asks "…tell me, what should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"*