Most of us struggle with beginnings and endings. Sometimes an ending or a beginning can be exciting and we are ready for it, anticipating it with relish, but most of the time it involves change, it's hard to adjust to and we are not prepared for it.
Last year I experienced two phenomenal changes, a beginning and an ending on the very same day within almost exactly 12 hours of each other. Neither of them were expected to happen on that day, and they represented a very happy beginning and a very sad ending.
On June 9, at approximately 3:30 in the morning, my granddaughter Addilyn Sophia was drawing her very first breath into this world and within 12 hours, at approximately 3:30 pm my mother, Betty Lee, was drawing her very last breath and we were gathered around her expressing our tearful good byes.
Sue Monk Kidd said in The Secret Life of Bees "You have to find a mother inside yourself. We all do. Even if we already have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside." June 9th and all the days since then have been about exploring what it means to be a mother, to mother ourselves, to live life without a mother and practicing those mothering skills.
When my mother passed away, I had already had time to work at mothering myself during a long absence from her. During that time I painfully learned what it meant to mother myself, to live without her and it was hard. But in the years right before her passing we reconnected and I found her place at the table of my life to be enriching, an extra bonus, frosting on the cupcake, and I enjoyed our time together, treasured our conversations, valued the time I had with her to reconnect to that "same old mom" she always was, full of stubbornness and also compassion .
I have thought of her often in the last year, perhaps even daily and I miss her. I miss her happiness, her ability to smile and find the good, to talk to people and make friends wherever she went, to be curious about life and her constant quest to learn and explore new things. She was intrigued by my veganism, frustrated by environmental issues (hated fracking), and loved when her great grandchildren would visit. I miss her love, her generosity of spirit, her kindness. I will never erase the voicemail messages on my phone and when I occasionally accidentally play one, it's like she is still here, never gone far away, her voice still so clear in my ears. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday that she was here and sometimes it feels so distant and long ago.
I have tried to make my peace in the last year with those things I didn't do, any regrets of time I could have spent, things I could have done. In the end we reciprocated love to one another and that was all that was needed or can ever be asked of one to give to another. She knew that I loved her and she loved all of us with all of her heart. That I know for sure.
Within the space of these past 12 months it has been amazing to watch my granddaughter grow from a helpless baby to walking and making decisions on her own and talking and singing and laughing. I see my mother's joy in her face, my daughter's kindness in her eyes, and I feel inspired and gratified that life is designed to keep on going, for us to remember those who came before by continuing to love those we have here, with all of our being and might, to mother not only ourselves, but to offer that maternal nurturing to others.
We never know what is in store for us tomorrow or next week or next year. Likely there will be many beginnings and many endings. May we gracefully travel through them, gathering the strings left behind and using them to tie ribbons around our futures.