On Thanksgiving and Tradition (Redux)

This post first appeared on The Daily Grace on Thanksgiving Eve 2011. I repost it every year in honor of my mother, who passed away in February of 2013. It has become a Thanksgiving tradition, I guess you would have to say.

I wish you every blessing of this holiday week.

 

The past three nights I have had dreams of my mother. In each, I was the age I am now, living my current life. But her age changed—early 40s, then 80s, then some age in-between.

I know these dreams came to me because it is Thanksgiving and I will not see her. She and Dad live in a retirement community in another state, and for health reasons, no longer travel. We are staying here because it is my daughter’s first holiday from college. She needs some “home” time, and she will spend Thanksgiving day with her Dad and his family. Those grandparents, who face debilitating health challenges of their own, will be filled with joy to have her there.

It is the right decision.

Nevertheless, my mother is heavy on my mind. My dreams mark that small, tight space in which I live, wedged between aging parents and maturing children. I want more time with both, and still the demands of our lives—mine, my mother’s, my daughter’s—pull us in three radically different directions.

Here is what the dreams were about. In some pretty obvious ways, and some veiled, the situations represented traditions my mother established when we were a family of six: Mom, Dad, my three brothers and me. While “tradition” infused all aspects of our family’s life, from sports superstitions to station wagon vacations, the most vivid to me are still the holidays.

Thanksgiving at our house in Virginia was exactly the same every year. My grandmother lived next door, and my brothers rolled her wheelchair down the tiny hill that connected our yards to bring her to dinner. La-La wore fur in the cold mountain air and brought with her a green cut glass bowl of homemade cranberry sauce. She also made pineapple fritters, a treat reserved for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Mom roasted the turkey, always in a brown-n-bag (70s) which meant it could not be stuffed—a choice about which my father expressed disdain year after year after year. Still, he was the carver, and I can see him as clearly as if it were yesterday “testing” bite after juicy bite in that formica-countered, wood stain-cabineted kitchen while my mother instructed my oldest brother, Sutton, on the finer points of making giblet gravy.  (“Stir like hell!”) When we were seated, and Mom complained once again about not making the dining room big enough when they built the house in 1965, my brother Randy would ask of the table:

I wonder if next year we’ll remember asking this year if we would remember asking this last year?

 

In my family today—the one in which I am the mother—we have no such traditions. Instead, Thanksgiving is a surprise every year. In the early days I made my way back to my mother’s house, first as a single girl, then married, then divorced with a small child in tow. Then the small child learned to dance and Thanksgiving week was filled with an endless schedule of Nutcracker performances that kept us bridled to South Carolina.

 

Eliza, in blue, a Party Girl in The Nutcracker

I married again, bringing another branch to our beautiful, complicated family tree, and our celebrations diversified once more. I especially loved the years Tim’s mother, Dorothy, joined us for Thanksgiving. I can still see her in the kitchen, making the Monetti family’s traditional creamed onions—a novelty to me. One year, just after a break with the ballet company, we found ourselves with no Thanksgiving plans at all. Along with our dear friends, the Coles, we hopped a plane for New York City and the Macy’s parade. I ate pumpkin ravioli for Thanksgiving dinner; it was divine.

 

at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade

 

And so, you see, my daughter has grown up rather traditionless. Instead, her life has been filled with a cornucopia (forgive me) of holiday celebrations. And I ask myself why it is that I now regret this? Why has this thought invaded my dreams? I think it is that space that we find ourselves in, we Mothers Squeezed Between The Generations. Guilt lurks on either end. I regret that I haven’t established the traditions of my childhood in my own home, for my daughter; I feel guilty not abandoning all for the mere opportunity to be with my parents—a remarkable blessing in itself.

And so tomorrow will come, and Eliza will head out the door toward her Ellis family. I’ll pull the big turkey from the fridge, overstuff it with dressing, and load it on my Williams Sonoma roasting pan. Then while I watch my husband carve the big bird, sneaking bites every chance he gets—I will smile and stir the giblet gravy.

I will remember, Mom, to stir like hell.

 

 

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Moving forward.

 

sunrise
October 31, 2017

 

OF LATE I’ve been considering two words I don’t think I ever use but that keep presenting themselves to me. We are wrought, each and every one of us–worked into shape by artistry or effort all through our livesSometimes something beautiful emerges through guidance of a gentle, loving hand. And sometimes we are beaten into shape by tools; hammered.

Either way this shaping occurs, molding our character and testing our values and resilience.

And sometimes we are overwrought: wrought beyond reason; worked over; weary.  It’s what keeps coming to me as I try to come to terms with my feelings in the wake of the election. I am looking for a place to land and a point of view from which to move forward, praying our good Lord has a plan in light of all this hatred and division.

 

HOPE CAME IN THE FORM of a reasonable conversation via the indomitable Krista Tippet and her remarkable podcast, On Being. Recorded on October 26th (nearly two weeks before voting), Krista talks with  former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey and “interfaith visionary” Eboo Patel about how to live beyond the election and how to “reimagine and re-weave the very meaning of common life and common good.” Among other things, they talk about the need to recognize a healthy, diverse democracy is one in which people can disagree on important, fundamental issues but continue to work together on others.

It’s so, so good, this conversation.  Listen to it here.

A lifeboat, really, filled with wisdom and love and grace, a reminder that each of us–on all sides of all issues–can be part of the light.

XXOO

 

 

The Champion of the World

The following came to me from my dear friend, David LaFuria. Any email from David is reason to rejoice. I love his take on things. I value his opinion. And I always learn something important.

 

Subject line:  Billy Crystal Eulogizes Muhammad Ali

Cath:
Sometimes when I sit and think, I think of you.

The funeral ceremony was much too long, but really, all you need to see is Billy Crystal. His vision, that Muhammad Ali was a bolt of lightning, illuminating everything around it, is fantastic. When was the last time one could say that an athlete is the most recognizable person on the planet?  When will it happen again?

He points out something important – you had to live through the time to appreciate him.  His fights were world events – everything stopped for that hour of boxing – everyone had an opinion. Outside the ring, he was bigger than the president, several of them. Looking back now, those of us who lived it were really lucky. Not to be critical of any one athlete, but let’s pick one. Michael Jordan raised the bar for measuring athletic greatness, but off the court he changed …. what?

Ali affected how all of us think about race. How we Americans think about free expression. And religious freedom. It is a big thing to say he changed how members of other races think about blacks (important terminology here – not just African Americans – but blacks worldwide). More important, he changed how blacks think about themselves. But perhaps his biggest triumph – he changed how whites think about themselves. Again, not just in the US, but around the world.

How many people can you name that have really affected how an entire society thinks about anything important? After Dr. King’s death, who carried his core messages to more people? A king? A president? A business leader? A philanthropist? No….an athlete.

He is the most consequential athlete of the 20th Century, and his athletic accomplishments stand only as a platform for him to be consequential. That he was so beautiful in the ring was the icing.

 

Image: http://muhammadali.com
Image: http://muhammadali.com

 

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In Support of Miracles

I’VE BEEN THINKING A LOT LATELY about miracles, the sort wherein you pray for something highly improbable, all the while doing your best to hang on to the belief that anything is possible.

More than once I’ve said it out loud–to a friend, to my family, to myself. Miracles. Do. Happen.

They do.

Don’t they?

 

WE WERE EXPECTING our dear friends, the Coles, for an impromptu It’s-Nearly-Summer-Let’s-Eat-On-The-Porch Saturday night when I heard such a raucous on Bickley’s pond I stepped to said porch to investigate. Clearly it was the Canada Geese, an odd collection this Spring that includes a core family with four babies and various and sundry other couples and loners that come and go in welcome–and unwelcome–fashion. There have been loud, physical fights on a regular basis, but this one seemed to be getting out of hand. A grove of trees stood between me and the fuss and so I grabbed my camera and headed to the back yard for a closer look.

Things had quieted down by the time I got to the water’s edge and it only took a glance to my right to understand why. The sweet family was there, intact, but their attention was turned toward an adjacent sandbar. On it lay another big goose, its long neck stretching against the sand, the body unmoving. Three or four other geese lolled about in the water while the still one’s wild, panicked mate screamed and flapped her wings, hitting with such force it raised the goose’s head, only to have it fall back to the earth flat, lifeless, dead. Then she took her beak and grabbed at its neck and lifted, squealing, begging. Over and over and over.

It was to no avail.

 

IMG_0284

 

IMG_0283

 

IMG_0281

 

I RAN TO THE HOUSE for my phone and quickly dialed my friend (and expected dinner guest) Jay, executive director of Carolina Wildlife Center. “Get here fast,” I said, relaying the story. “The goose is probably dead, but maybe there’s something we can do.” And then I ran again for the water.

What I saw there I could hardly take in. The pond was silent, and the sandbar was empty.

I looked all around. The sweet goose family and the miscellaneous others floated quietly away from me and the crime scene. There was no body there, no evidence anything had happened at all.

Could an eagle have gotten him?

Could he have been merely stunned?

Is it even possible he is one of those out there now, carelessly floating away?

 

IMG_9989
moving on

 

 

OURS IS A GOD who can do anything, this we know, and as is so often the case when something has been on my mind, it was our Sunday School lesson the very next morning. Along with the work in our study book, Dr. Bragan reminded us how important it is to think of God as “in here,” yes. But He is also the God of “out there,” a God so great and distant from our mortal understanding as to require great faith, and awe.

 

I CAME HOME FROM CHURCH still thinking about that goose and about the other significant things in my world requiring prayer and hope. Tim pulled the car in and something caught my eye as I looked toward the back yard, toward that pond. “I’ve got something to investigate,” I told him as I exited the garage and walked to the back yard.

There it was.

 

feather
my promise of the angel’s presence and God’s love

 

A giant feather–a giant white feather–in the grass of our upper yard, far from the water but near the side porch, just where I could see it. A reminder to me that God’s love is pure, and that miracles do happen.

Every single day.

XXOO

 

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a letter to my daughter graduating from college

(first posted April 29, 2015)

My sweet girl,

Today you take the final exam of your college career–your final finals as we have been calling them. While that in itself is reason to rejoice (!), I know there are a thousand other emotions moving inside you, like ocean swells that become waves that crash into each other in an approaching storm. It’s a funny thing to be the Mom of a daughter facing these confusing and conflicting feelings. I have been in the same place, on the same campus, facing the same things. I know your heart like I know my own: half sad and hopeless, half ready to move on. Fearful, yes, but nevertheless feeling that tug toward what’s next.

It’s just life, this tug of what’s next. It’s how God keeps us moving along our journey. That’s something you know but somehow it is of little comfort when emotions run so wild. Right?

Let me put your mind at ease on the two thoughts that I expect most weigh you down.

1. You are ready.

There is no experience like college (particularly at Clemson, which is ideal in this way) and for many of us, it will always be a pinnacle time in life. This is a good thing! It happens because it’s the perfect match up of want and need. College is an immersion in a life buffet–you only need fill your plate with the things that interest you and that move you along on your big life journey. Classes, clubs, relationships, parties, travel, lectures, sports, activities–a little of this, a little of that–and each one plays a part in getting you ready for the big world waiting for you out here. It’s all rather remarkable, I think.

But then years pass and you begin to get your fill. The food still looks good, but somehow you’re not so hungry anymore.

It’s God’s way of telling you it’s time to make a move. He knows because He’s provided everything you need to be ready for the next chapter. You are more mature, more grounded, more confident. You’re better at making your own decisions. You have a better sense of who you are. (Okay, so maybe not completely, but you definitely have a better sense of who you are not and that is just as important.) You know how to navigate, how to get from here to there, how to read the proverbial map and ask the right questions and work through problems that arise along the way. You know how to make the difficult calls, have the tough conversations, face the inevitable consequences. You’re finding out what drains you, and also, what brings you powerful energy and great, giddy joy.

You’ve had four years of practice on a demanding college campus. But the walls are closing in. You’re ready for a bigger stage.

2. You get to take the people that matter to you with you when you go.

It’s so true.

You’ve developed relationships with some remarkable people who’ve been an important part of your growth in college. These connections won’t just sever and die when you leave campus.  Those who matter to you will be an important part of your future, as well.

Chief among these, of course, are your friends. Guys and girls with whom you’ve spent time, who’ve influenced the person you’ve become. And most particularly the deep dear friendships of your tightest circle. How lucky you are to be surrounded by such strong, intelligent, beautiful women. How lucky they are to have you! As you hug goodbye to begin new chapters in different cities, rest assured in the knowledge these friendships will only deepen as you all move on. Life has a funny way of making sure this happens–it will challenge you in ways that demand you reach out and hold on to each other for support. I know from my own beautiful experiences–you will be there for each other in ways you can’t even imagine. They are your circle for life, these women, and you will lean on each other as things change over the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years and more. How you will need each other for strength, for guidance, for honesty. For keeping it all in check. And for laughter and fun. For the rest of your lives, when you girls are together the laughter will come as easily as it does today. With no work, with no effort, the laughter will always come.

There’s so much grace in that, I think.

Anyway, my sweet girl. There you are on that threshold. In front of you is a big, beautiful world filled with so much. I can’t wait to see you gobble it all up.

You are ready. It’s time.

Love, love, love,

Mama

girls
my girls

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The Question To Ask When You Don’t Know What To Do

 

A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO I mentioned my lenten walk across the internet–a bit of a dichotomy, I recognize, and one that still seems silly to acknowledge. And yet it is a journey that continues to bear fruit. My reading list now includes a handful of writers/bloggers who open my heart in ways beautiful and lasting.

Case in point a recent post from Kelly Chripczuk of A Field of Wildflowers. It’s worthy of a read for the title alone: “What I Wanted and What Love Offered.” Oh, and the subtitle: Grace and the Salt and Pepper Hang-over.

(Right?)

Kelly writes beautifully about the stifling disappointment of morning-after, not-enough-sleep, {we’ve-all-been-there} regret.

I had ruined that which I was looking forward to, my morning of writing and stretching, the feeling of forward momentum and accomplishment as I checked off my list of goals.  But it was what it was and I worked hard to not attach to the thoughts of judgment and condemnation that flew around my brain like a flock of scattered birds.

Instead, I asked myself what Love would do, what I would tell my kids if, when, they find themselves in the same predicament.

Love offered a nap.

Love said, “It is what it is.”

Oh, yeah.

 

IT IS THE QUESTION that’s come to mind a thousand times in the week since I came upon Kelly’s post, the answer to a hundred dilemmas as they’ve come in and out of focus. There is a lot going on, after all, considerable change as life moves from one season to another, as I navigate waters that churn and chop like a boat making a decisive turn. It’s the thought that comes as my own hopes and fears come into direct contact with those of the people around me, people I love, as well as people with whom I have no particular relationship but a passing one–the overloaded dressing room attendant, the distracted young waitress at a new restaurant, an acquaintance with an email request I don’t have time for. Since reading Kelly’s post, what has come to mind with each interaction and decision, each response or action I’ve needed to take is this:

What would Love do?

 

heart-cloud

 

THERE IS ONE OTHER THING worth mentioning, another thought resurrected by Kelly’s post and brought back to my soul’s center from which it had slipped but where it most surely belongs. It is the great truth also espoused by the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle in his powerful work, A New Earth:

Love What Is.

Oh dear friends. We can go a thousand miles on that one.

XXOO

 

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Rumination on Home

I LEFT VIRGINIA’S APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS late in the summer of 1978, my car pointed south toward my freshman year of college. I didn’t know it then but that date signaled more than my transition to adulthood. It also marked the start of a changed geographic life for me, a beautiful one spent in the midlands of South Carolina for the better part of 38 years. It surprises me to realize how much of my life has been lived where the land is flat and piney, with long, straight two-lanes dotted by the quintessential small towns that color so much of southern literature.

Not so in the mountains. In the mountains, life is choppy and rugged, the landscape itself the show, all forests and peaks, hollows and rocky ledges, shifting light and weather that’s ever-changing. It’s like the good Lord knows what a remarkable seat you have, positioned up high, and so puts on a spectacular show.

 

sun rise in north carolina
Saturday’s sun rise in North Carolina

 

MY HUSBAND AND I WERE JUST IN HAWAII where we marveled at the geography there. Born of volcanoes that still create earth mass today these landforms make a spectacular statement, those severe rock cliffs that try to contain a wild, insistent sea. The entire scene is made beautiful and transcendent, somehow, because the water is a gorgeous, clear, incomparable sea glass blue.

 

Hawaii's rocky coast
Hawaii’s fierce coast

 

We were dressed in summer clothes then, Tim and I, the temperature hanging around a rather perfect 80 degrees. And here we are now, not two weeks later, joyful, giddy really, watching the snow fall on North Carolina’s Black Mountains. It is a high elevation storm, one that blew in late this afternoon after we’d already been given a day pretty enough for an exploratory walk.

 

Little Bit and Eliza get some air, 2:30 pm
Little Bit and Eliza get some air

 

How thrilled we are to have Eliza with us. How surprised we all are to watch the weather change so fast.

 

snow-2
the meadow, 5:30 pm

 

IT IS OUR FIRST OFFICIAL overnight stay in these mountains, did I mention that? We’ve finally bought a weekend cabin after several years of searching. My husband promised to get me back to the mountains when we married nearly 14 years ago and this is the fulfillment of that lovely pledge.

My heart is happy.

 

I think Eliza's heart is happy, too.
I think Eliza’s heart is happy, too.

 

ALL THIS GEOGRAPHY has got me to thinking about home and the many shades that color it, the things that make a place yours, just as you feel part of it. There are the people, of course, the first and most important consideration of all. I remember Robert Frost said Home is the place that when you have to go there, they have to take you in. True that, as Eliza would say.

But there’s more to it than people. There is geography, a kind of gravity that pulls you to a place and holds you close to the ground when you are there. It’s like a force meant to keep you from the bobbling orbit we are all prone to–we humans who figuratively and quite literally spend our lives trying to find our way. Home, I believe, is the place that settles us down, tidies the ravel of frayed ends, whispers gently in our ear You belong here.

 

brown

 

For me, that place is the Blue Ridge Mountains. I am captivated by the kaleidoscope as light moves across the ridges and valleys, colors shifting, day moving on. I love its tall trees and deep forests, the streams that rush and tumble, the life hidden within.

For my dear friend, Teresa, it is Edisto Island. The moment she passes beneath those ancient live oaks, gets a whiff of that earthy pluff mud and a look across the broad, breathtaking marsh, she melts right into the landscape. It’s something you can see, I swear. Walk with her out to the ocean’s edge and there is simply no doubt about it: This girl is home.

 

T's edisto
T’s edisto

 

I BELIEVE THIS CALLING is more than legacy, I want to be clear about that. It’s more than coming to roost in the place of your birth, even if there are parallels in the examples I’ve just given. It’s soul connection I’m talking about–person to place, and place to person in a way that allows the grand grace of exhaling. It’s forgetting for a time the difficult daily work of making your way and simply being.

But not just being. Being there.

 

my mountains
my mountains

 

WE LIVE IN A BEAUTIFUL WORLD. How amazing it is that we can move about in it, discovering, exploring, falling in love with one place, and then another. How marvelous it is we can also go home–truly, joyfully, soulfully home.

XXOO

 

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Free Forming It

It was a comment that made me laugh, then made me wonder, then made me rejoice.

It was Sunday afternoon, you see, and my sweet husband was parked in front of the TV for his weekly dose of NFL football. The stakes were getting higher, this close to the Super Bowl, and as it matters so much to him, I pulled up my own seat and commenced to acting interested. (Ha.) That’s when it occurred to me this thing would stretch long past afternoon into evening and I hadn’t yet written my Tuesday* post for The Daily Grace.

These playoffs are really cutting into my usual routine, I said.

You don’t have a usual routine babe, he said without so much as a glance away from the screen. Who you kidding?

~~~~~~

It’s true. So true. My life is a free-for-all, no matter how robust my attempt to schedule things. I make To Do lists, I identify high priorities so I can attack them first. It’s all for naught, day after day, because I never–never, ever–go by the list. In fact, the moment I’ve written the dern thing I never can find it. (This is doubly true for grocery lists, which never make their way to the store with me.)

I hatch new strategies for organizing my life all the time. (Case in point: the bullet journal reference in last week’s Friday Loves post.) The New Year 2016 effort is a swell new day book I spent hours researching, tracking down and ordering. I love it. Love it. And somehow, here in this last week of the first month of the year, it’s already clear I’m never gonna let this pretty planner do its job.

 

my lovely day book by oneCANOEtwo
Isn’t she a beaut?

 

(If only I got a jolly jolt by marking things off a list. I don’t. And I should like to say to those who are process-oriented, whom I love and admire, don’t you realize the To Do list is endless anyway???)

Oh well. I shall let it go. I shall henceforth celebrate the strange nature following the whims, embracing the distractions, chasing the sparkles and the light. You’re never bored, that’s the upside. Spend your life flying by the seat of your pants and I promise you: Every day will be a glorious surprise!

XXOO (especially to my process-oriented friends and family)

*which I am therefore posting on Thursday

 

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God of grace

IMG_0248 - Version 3

It has come up so many times in recent days, a nugget trying hard to make its way from passing thought to consciousness to heart. It’s looking for a home, that’s what I think, a permanent spot to stay a while, hang out a shingle. And so I have come to understand the little guy will knock knock knock until I open the door, welcoming it in with open arms.

First there was an Ann Voscamp comment that passed through my feed during December. I don’t follow Ann so it was a random retweet of a retweet of a tweet that landed the darn thing in my lap in the first place. There were struggles that day–as there always are during Advent–and I was in a Question God mode. Joy and harmony of the season? They didn’t seem to be manifesting in my holiday, no matter how much work I did to perfect every detail. Instead it felt as if I were peeking out from behind a big pile of chaos and confusion, the case for disappointment building day by day.

And then it came, this tweet, and lay there until I picked it up rather begrudgingly.

 

blessings

There is so much expectation at Christmas, this I recognized, our eyes on the manger, our ears awaiting the herald of angel choruses. There is so much anticipation of joy to be delivered to those who prepare well. (Can I get an Amen, sistas?)

~~~~~~~

Have you been listening to Krista? he asked, my friend Michael, a man who doesn’t pass along recommendations lightly.You gotta check out Martin Sheen. Then he shook his head yes in a most convincing way and I knew that particular episode of the podcast On Being would be my Next Up.

I was enraptured with the interview from the beginning. A “deep and joyful Catholic,” I merely needed hear the actor’s beautiful, soulful laugh to be moved. Then Sheen began to talk about love, and the search for God, and finding God in the place you’re least likely to look.

The love that I longed for, and I think all of us really long for, is knowing that we are loved. A knowingness about our being that unites us to all of humanity, to all of the universe. That despite ourselves, we are loved. And when you realize that, and you embrace that, you begin to look at everyone else and you can see very clearly who in your vision knows they’re loved and who does not. And that makes all the difference. And I began to give thanks and praise for that love. You know how, so often, people say they go on this journey — and I said it, too — that “I’m looking for God.” But God has already found us, really. We have to look in the spot where we’re least likely to look, and that is within ourselves. And when we find that love, that presence, deep within our own personal being — and it’s not something that you can earn, or something that you can work towards. It’s just a realization of being human, of being alive, of being conscious. And that love is overwhelming.

(It is a remarkable conversation and you can listen to it in its entirety by clicking here.)

~~~~~~~~

God within, God where you least expect Him, God in the darkness. God eternal.

God of grace.

 

XXOO

 

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Bending Time

It was a book I loved, a good read that tugged tugged tugged at me until it pulled me all the way under. I was so caught up in the story, in fact, I abandoned my own writer’s habit of highlighting the superb passages, accepting for once they’d still be there the next time I felt the compulsive need to diagram a well written sentence.

That is to say this little line came at me like an arrow shot straight at my wide open reader’s heart.

She was grateful life could be long.

It pierced, this line, and lodged there.

She was grateful life could be long.

____________________________

There are so many lives inside of us, I believe, different lives to be lived.

Perhaps it is middle age that has me focused so squarely on this notion. We move from one to the next without even noticing, teenager to college student to professional to spouse to parent to—well, you know, because you’ve been there. Not noticing because somehow, in the midst of it, you need every bit of attention to simply make it from morning alarm to bedtime collapse, cramming as much studying and working and feeding and cleaning and carpooling as you can, in between.

____________________________

Pace yourself I tell her, this sweet daughter of mine, this college sophomore. The year is long. But at 20 she gobbles it up, living completely in the moment, never caring that tomorrow is another day. Who can blame her? This life is new, new to all these young people experiencing the surprising colors and textures of an expanding existence. They don’t yet know the virtue of patience—a gift they haven’t yet received—a gift given later in life to enable us to navigate a landscape that changes so dramatically over time.

____________________________

What will you do I asked my friend Debbie, a bright light in this world who was three days into retirement. What life will you live now?

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I wrote my mother’s obituary, a fact that still surprises me. I look back at those first hours after her death and see our emotions pooling in waves, moving son to son, daughter-in-law to grandchild, grandchild to aunt. We were raw and splintered, all of us were, desperately needing a little time to process, to think through, to absorb the grief at least enough to regain some footing. But there were decisions to make, proper decisions, decisions that needed to be made well.

And so they asked me to do it, my brothers, to write this accounting of her life from an insider’s view. But I struggled mightily, let me tell you, eventually accepting the reality that I couldn’t compose a single decent sentence unless I moved further out, looked at her life from a distance.

And there I saw them all, forming in front of me like acts in a play, an epic novel unfolding chapter by chapter. She had lived not one long life, but a thousand, changing day to day, decade to decade.

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Patience is the greatest of gifts, I believe. Patience makes time malleable. It lengthens days and rewards us with seasons. It allows for love, real and rooted and slow-growing. It accommodates change. It tolerates mistakes. And it makes room for forgiveness, vast and deep, forgiveness that brings healing and calm and peace. Forgiveness that lets us move forward into our next moment, our next day, our next life, filled with excitement and possibility.

She was grateful life could be long, novelist Laura Moriarity writes of Cora Carlisle, an unlikely Jazz Age heroine in The Chaperone.

Oh yes, I say, in thanksgiving. Yes.

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Bending Time first appeared on The Daily Grace in April 10, 2013. Thanks for indulging me as I repost it today. I will be back with original posts in January. That’s a promise!