You never know

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I was painfully reminded of the finite nature of time as I grapple with my own transitions. I had known things were changing; sensing it in the air.  But when my premonition proved true my reaction surprised, even me.

I cried.

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I rarely cry openly.  When I read our bookclub choice, this month, Me Before You by JoJo Moyes, I couldn’t function until I completed it.  It took me eight hours.  This was last spring but the themes of the book resonate with me; issues of death and dying.  Euthanasia.  As a gerontologist my favorite classes were on biomedical ethics and many times my religious upbringing contrasted with where my thoughts lie.   I cried as I closed the last page of the book; borrowed and shared amongst several women last year.  And so, when our bookclub discussion arrived  I realized I could not voice my thoughts; still painfully raw.  I noted that the girls didn’t either.  Since I was functioning on four hours of sleep to submit our digital yearbook, I held the wine glass and took big sips; gulps in fact.

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When my own mother, riddled with Alzheimer’s, lay on her deathbed I had been 2,000 miles away and was told to make the choice if she lived or died.  Quality of life issues entered the equation.  In my line of work and educational upbringing, I had spoken and counseled others on how to deal with Alzheimer’s and grief; having no idea that I, too, would be amongst their ranks.  When my turn, ironically, appeared before me; all of that knowledge went out the window.  I am thankful that choice never had to be made in the end.  By the time I landed on the airport tarmac the call from the hospital came through on my cell.  She was gone.  She rests in peace.

And I did not cry.  I thought of the various stages of grief and skipped from denial into anger.  I could only cry upon my husband’s shoulder as I watched my young boys place flowers upon her lowered casket.  This afternoon as the boys and I weeded our backyard I was stunned to actually see flowers.  Work and school activities have hindered any gardening in our household.  I am grateful to my adjoining neighbor who allows me to gaze from my front window to our shared patch of  lawn outside of our homes (pic above).

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The yellow trumpet flowers were cuttings from my dear cousin who passed unexpectedly in 2010.  After each trimming they come back with abundance and I think of him.  I need to plant calla lilies; the faves of my mother.  I have no idea what the flowers were, below.  I had haphazardly thrown seeds into the soil thinking they wouldn’t survive in our drought.  But there they are.

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Instead, amongst the group of women that comprise our bookclub, we talked about the bombshell dropped upon our school population last week.  Our beloved administrator is leaving due to a promotion; as she pursues her career path.   The discussion could’ve tied in with our book but when it veered to real life; I didn’t hinder it.  It is the one thing I have learned, over the years, as I silently dealt with the death of my father, at age 18, and the unexpected passing of my mother due to a medicine overdose by medical professionals.

You have to talk things through.  With someone, anyone.  A counselor, a close family member, your spouse.  In this case….our bookclub!

I had to ask myself why I was grieving.  My children called me out.  But Mom, why are you crying?  She’s getting a promotion?  It’s not as if she died!  Out-of-the mouth of babes…or sassy tweener/teens.

Because what I really mourn is the transition.  Change.  The thing I currently grapple with is slapping me in the face.  And as I cried amongst teachers and watched their shocked and tearful reactions; I didn’t feel alone.  Unlike other transitions I’ve undergone,  I could grieve with groups of people over a promotion.  And this allowed me to let go.  It is okay to cry; even if the change is good.   Of course the staff had to have their fun.  They duct-taped our principal to her office chair so that she wouldn’t leave.  I am grateful for the three plus years we’ve shared.  I cut and pasted her farewell message in our yearbook as she quoted Robert Frost. Life.  It goes on.

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And with that the tears begin to flow as I mourn the years of staying-at-home with young boys; available for their beck and call.  I miss freshly shampooed heads and little sticky, chubby hands.  Though I cheer the growing height of my two older sons I mourn the loss of youth, of time; knowing it is finite.  I have very little time left to affect their sphere of influence.  Will it be enough?  With they know to open doors for strangers?  To welcome others with a Good Morning or Hello?  Will they continue to remember to chew with their lips closed, to NOT drive like their mother, to put clothes in hampers?  Will they continue the same faith journey as my own?  Find love? Find a close friend or confidante?    The passage of time is swift and sure.  It is hard to get lost moments or opportunities back.

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We need to live in the now.  To live the life you Love and Love the life you live.  Time with others is fleeting and not to be taken for granted.  I assumed my son would promote from sixth grade, this June, with this administrator by his side.  But that will not be.  Life, it does go on.

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I had recently asked the women in our bookclub if they remembered or knew their happiest memories.  Mine happens to be snorkeling with turtles.  They guessed that I had my camera and chased after it; going too far.  I had held onto my youngest son’s hand as the waves rolled over us.  I took the shot of the turtle with my sons and when my head came above water; realized we were very far from the shore; the water depth more than 30 feet. The hubs had us all hold hands as we furiously kicked to shore; the winds working against us.

But I gaze at the picture and always smile.  The turtle gazed at my sons and it approached them; allowing them to touch its back and fin.  Our family of five worked together and as our feet touched sand/coral; we flung our snorkels off and with the adrenaline rush only fear could bring, talked of the graceful sea turtle.  My girlfriend gave me the turtle above; thinking of me.  I cradle it as the tears roll down; thinking of life’s transitions and the friends who walk these paths with me.

Life is short.  I strive to make each moment count.  You just never know.  I am blessed.

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