Monday, May 26, 2008

A Job Well Done

Love Letter to My Daughter As She Graduates

Commencement. The word means beginning, genesis, advent, dawn. Out there beyond the familiar boundaries of home and school lie the somedays of your dreams. You walk toward, and in doing so, you walk away from. That's the way of things. Here are some thoughts to keep in your heart as you travel your new path.

"In all your thoughts, and in all your acts,in every hope, and in every fear. when you soar to the skies and when you fall to the ground, you are holding the other person's hand." - A.A. Milne

Always remember that you are loved. You were such a sweet little child with your big blue eyes and flaxen hair and that deep, throaty chuckle. You held my hand when we went for walks and your talk was full of whats and whys and whens. "What comes down in spring?" you asked, watching winter's snowflakes spiral to the ground and "When will I be big?" you asked, watching with longing as your siblings climbed the steps of the yellow school bus. I would have held you small and needing me, but my heart knew better. Now that you have become a young woman, the time has come for me to let go. It is time for you to make your own way in the world.

"You yourself must set flame to the torches you have brought." - Anonymous

Remember that you have a purpose. You may not be sure what it is, even though you've wanted to be a teacher since you were six. Crowd into your days every possible experience, every adventure. Live your life to the uttermost. Grow as much as it is in your power to grow.

"You wake up in the morning and lo! Your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe. It is yours..." - Arnold Bennett

Pay attention to the present. All the days leading up to this day make up your past. The future, all that lies ahead of you, begins now. The fleeting moment in between is, in reality, eternity. When you were small, you knew instinctively how to focus on whatever you were doing. You learned to lose yourself in a book or a game or a daydream. You poured every ounce of your being into the moment at hand. Distractions will come your way. Remember to spend your hours wisely each day and tomorrow will be taken care of.

"Home is the place where,
When you have to go there
They have to take you in.
I should have called it
Something you somehow
haven't to earn." - Robert Frost

Home is where the heart is. You've had several homes: the little house in Connecticut where you were born; the rented house high on the hill in Walden, Vermont where you used to catch snowdrops on your tongue when the wild wind brought one snowstorm after another and the log cabin in Danville that you helped to build; the houses on Barnum and Silver Streets in Massachusetts; and finally the dormitory at college where you've spent the last four years. Now that you are setting off to far places, remember this: as long as we are in each other's hearts, you are never far from home.

Your Momma

*note from a proud Momma: This letter was written for my youngest daughter as she graduated with her BA a few years ago. This past Friday, she earned her Masters Degree in Higher Education and has been accepted into the doctoral program for the coming school year. She received an award for outstanding achievement and was recognized as "possibly the finest writer this program has seen."

Sunday, May 04, 2008

On the Other Side of Grief

I have been following a fellow blogger's arduous journey toward and through her father's last days. TICA details with such strength and compassion her bedside vigil and her dad's struggle with life and death choices. A few years ago, a close friend of mine lost someone she dearly loved. TICA's posts reminded me of this column I wrote of my friend's journey through grief.

Life on earth is at best a chancy thing. You cannot know the exact moment when you will leave the land of the living or if your dreams will die before they've been fully lived. One thing is certain—if a loved one leaves before you, whether by accident or design, you will travel to the strange land of grief and you will go alone. The winds of change will swirl about you, pick you up, transform you forever, and set you down in another place.

It is not only the departing who are changed by leaving. The living, the survivors, the ones left behind must become someone else in order to cope, to grow and finally emerge into a different life—the life without. It is a lonely walk through an unfamiliar land, this land without. Things that two did together one does now. There is nothing so empty as the other person's chair pushed up to the table, unless it's the stairwell that no longer echoes end of day greetings and eager footsteps, or the bed that suddenly seems vast and cold and too lonely on either side of the middle. There is nothing so quiet as a room with one person in it, the silence absolute after the death of conversation and shared confidences. There is nothing so solitary as a single plate on an empty table or a single towel hanging folded and desolate on its too wide bar, or a lone toothbrush standing solitary guard in its cup. There is nothing harder than being one when you have loved being two.

Someone dear to me recently lost someone dear to her. She was so happy, so loved, so alive while her loved one was with her. Now she looks and feels as though she's been struck down and in a sense, she has. Grief has her by the heart and for a time she must wrestle with it, pushing her way through the pain to unlock the reservoirs of strength and faith she accrued in happier days. I watch her struggle to come to terms with her loss, to find a place where she can lay her sorrow down long enough to eat, to sleep, to think of something other than what has befallen her.

She tells her story over and over, trying to make sense of it, to fit it in with her own picture of what her life is all about. Perhaps her peace will lie in the creation of a new picture, a new story, a tale that embraces this grief as a gift that, when opened, reveals all the words and colors she will need.

photo credit: Jean