How will it end - 2019?
It may seem silly to ask that question at this moment, when it has literally just begun. And yet, having just finished 2018, relishing all it brought, and considering how it ended, perhaps at the beginning is the time to ask, 'How will it end?'
For many, everything begins with the end in mind; however, setting goals and making plans are not exactly my forte. I tend to put my time and energy into many endeavors all at the same time, trusting that all paths will lead to something good. Not all do, but for the most part, this serendipitous way of life serves me and others well.
The reason serendipity does serve me and others well is because the end I seek is wellbeing for myself, my family and friends, my community and world. While I may not excel at choosing specific ends for my efforts, generally the fruits of my existence lead to wellbeing.
May we all begin 2019 with love and joy in our hearts, giving what we can to the greater good, trusting that an uncertain path will lead to that good, so that we all will be able to answer the question 'How will it end?' with 'Well' for all beings.
'What Will Your Story Be?' is the title of a chapter in JOY: What My Heart Taught Me. The message is that we know not what our history or story will be when looking forward. It is only when looking back on one's life that one's story unfolds.
Today, I have been moved to tears by the stories of the life of George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States. Most are familiar with that chapter of his story, but his story is so much more than that. And while he may not have been admired as President at the time, it is clear looking back that his Presidency, and so much more of his life, have had a profound impact on our nation and the world. He was a respectful and respected soldier and statesman, a generous man who put our nation's wellbeing ahead of his own
As if that part of his story were not enough, for most of us will never achieve such greatness, George H.W.'s story reveals him to have been a kind, funny, humble, and loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend. Those who had the privilege of knowing him best will likely remember this part of his story best.
May he rest in peace.
May we joyfully lead lives that weave a story worthy of remembering and retelling.
November has me thinking about Thanksgiving, probably my favorite day of the year. I love our tradition of a Thanksgiving meal shared by my family around the large table in my Mom's home. We come to that table each year with gratitude in our hearts for the bountiful and delicious food, the laughter brought by stories from our past, the interest in all we are doing now, and the hope we share for what our future will bring.
In addition to food and gratitude, we each bring our unique selves to our Thanksgiving table. Of course, my sisters and Mom and I share some traits, given our shared genealogy. Likewise for our children and each of us. Yet we are all quite unique!
My brother-in-law is a sports nut. His dream job was to be a sports reporter; sadly for him and for sports fans who will never know him, his dream didn't come true. He knows the stats on the players, the dirt on the coaches, the fan chatter, etc., for nearly every sport. He may not be on TV, but he keeps us entertained with his insightful and brilliantly delivered commentary.
My other brother-in-law is a first generation US citizen. His parents ran a dry-cleaning business when he was growing up. They spoke almost no English, and lived a quiet existence, working hard to make a better life for their children, which they have. His appreciation for his upbringing is always felt when he speaks, and we appreciate it, too.
My husband owns a small business. He always has a story to tell about mishaps due to employee poor decisions, client first-world-problem syndrome, or Mother Nature. My husband is someone who can work through anything that comes at him, and then laugh about it. We all appreciate his ability to let go of life's small crises.
My sister is a nurse practitioner. She tells stories that literally make us drop our forks mid-bite, swearing to never allow ourselves get to the unhealthy state in which so many have gotten because they don't take care of themselves. We appreciate her efforts to get them back on the path of healthy living, and we take her advice to heart.
My other sister works for the government. I'll let you imagine what she brings to the table. We appreciate her ability to tolerate it.
The kids, most of whom are now young adults, bring their fresh perspective on all that they're doing and seeing in the world around them. We all appreciate their new ideas, optimism, and hope.
My Mom brings her smiling countenance, taking it all in, grateful for her legacy. I tend to be like her.
We each bring something special to that Thanksgiving table. We embrace our differences, knowing that our unique experiences and personalities add to the collective wisdom and perspective we all take away with us, which we then bring to "the table," a metaphor for gathering, wherever life takes us.
May you find gratitude in all that is brought to your table this Thanksgiving, and always. Embrace it and share it.
"How are you feeling?" is the question I've been asked over and over this week, as our first daughter headed off to college. A friend sent me this photo, and I think it sums things up well:
As a mother, this photo rings true because I still think of my daughter as a child. Memories from every stage of her childhood are replaying in my mind as I go about my days: reminiscing our lying in the grass looking for shapes in the clouds after the picnic lunches we shared, as I weed my gardens; savoring our favorite dinner that has now been prepared for three rather than four; reciting in my head the books I read to her at bedtime as I walk into her room to make her bed, before realizing it doesn't need to be made because no one slept in it last night; hearing her laughter as I look at photos on the wall. All of these fond memories preserve my little girl as just that in my mind. The fact that this chapter of our lives is over has left a hole in my soul.
As the days pass, I feel new joy as I read the texts I receive from my daughter telling of all the wonderful things she is doing at school. Her words and photos make it clear that she is not the child of this photo. She is a young woman embarking on her life journey - a journey that will take her beyond the walls of her childhood. I truly could not be more happy for her.
How am I feeling? While my daughter's presence is missed, her present is filling the hole in my soul with new joy.
'What time is it?' is a question we ask often. Our lives seem to revolve around time. As a modern, connected, upward-moving society, we have come to rely on perfect timing to ensure that the cogs of what moves us onward and upward work precisely as intended and required.
While we generally concern ourselves with the time we measure in years, months, days, hours, minutes, and seconds, time also passes in less quantifiable increments. It's easy to miss these bits of time passing, if we are too focused on the minutiae of measured time; however, they are significant.
I recently attended the funeral of my uncle, who was a farmer. The officiant shared this Bible verse, as a metaphor for my uncle's life:
There is a time for everything.
There is a time for planting and a time for pulling up.
There is a time for the killing and the time for healing.
There is a time for tearing down a time for building.
There is a time for sorrow and a time for joy.
There is a time for mourning and a time for dancing.
There is a time for making love and a time for not making love.
There is a time for kissing and a time for not kissing.
There is a time for finding and a time for losing.
There is a time for saving and a time for throwing away.
There is a time for tearing and a time for mending.
There is a time for silence and a time for talk.
There is a time for love and a time for hate.
There is a time for war and a time for peace.
--Ecclesiastes 3 verses 2-8
This ode to time felt appropriate to honor my uncle, and all farmers, who certainly live by measured time like everyone else, but who also live according to this more imprecise timetable, trusting that everything happens in its time. Calves are born; cows die. Seeds are planted; crops harvested. Food is stored; waste removed. No one knows precisely when these things will happen, but all know they will happen.
Some versions of this verse use the term "season" in place of "time." "Season" suggests a span or stage, an age or epoch. Interestingly, the word "season" when used as a verb also can mean to acclimate or to soften. These two definitions of the word "season," taken together, suggest that time, or the season, will allow us to become accustomed to what occurs, if we are patient and trust it will.
As family and friends mourn the death of my dear uncle, we find peace knowing that his body no longer suffers, and that he will live again. At the same time, we anticipate the birth of our friend's new baby, appreciating the circle of life.
As I (and my sisters and friends) prepare to watch our children leave for college, the promise of an anticipated homecoming comforts us as we watch them go, as does the joy of watching them continue on their journey to become the people they are to be.
As we savor the fleeting summer days of August, we look forward to what Fall will bring, and then Winter, which will turn into Spring, before we are enjoying another Summer.
We trust that measured time . . . seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years . . . will never end. May we also trust that the seasons of time will also never end, and that every season of pain or sorrow will be followed by a season of peace or joy.
What time is it? Whatever the time, be joyful, for it too shall pass.
Is a mother's love unending?
As I mourn for and with the mother orca, Tahlequah, in the Pacific Northwest, who is risking her own life, desperately clinging to her calf a full two weeks after its premature death shortly after birth, it is apparent that her love is quite literally unending, as she is either unwilling to allow her child's life to end, because she believes her child is still alive, or she is unwilling to allow her mourning to end. Their story can be read via the link above.
As a fellow mother, I am suffering pangs of heartache, sorrow, and agony with and for her. I cannot fathom the depth of her grief, given the intensity of mine as a mere observer.
Tahlequah is giving all of herself for her calf's life. As mothers going about the daily work of motherhood, we can all relate to giving all we have so our own children survive and thrive. While most of us are not on the brink of literal death as we do so, sometimes it can feel as if motherhood is sucking the life out of us. And yet, we carry on. For our children. Because a mother's love is unending.
It is moments like this that remind me that a child is a gift. A child is an amazing gift. A child is the most precious gift. A gift to be cherished. A gift to be loved. Unending. When motherhood becomes challenging - and it does - we mothers need to summon everything we possess - physically, mentally, and emotionally - to press on to help our children survive and thrive. Mother orca is a role model for us all.
Death, the literal end of life, cannot end a mother's love for a child. In this time of sorrow, may we all allow our unending love for our own children to bring us joy - unending.
P.S. Baby orca, may you rest in peace, knowing your mother's love for you is unending. Mother Tahlequah, may you find peace, knowing your baby feels your love, and that the love you share will be unending.
author of "JOY"