The other day I received an email from a friend with a heartbreaking, emotional account of her mother’s illness and passing; a story about the complex, imperfect, and deeply loving relationship between mother and daughter; the confession of a child’s pain and helplessness at seeing a parent fade from life. I cried for a long time, because I had no words or voice left. I had only tears, and so much love that it hurt.
In that email, my friend wrote that her mother, in moments of lucidity, would always tell her “we must part beautifully”. And in the end they did. I was glad. And then I sat quietly, thinking about life, my life, and all the partings in it that I have experienced.
There have been many. Memories came like an avalanche, eager to be seen. I feared they might crush me, but I didn’t want to turn any of them away. So I invited them to visit one by one, and they came like excited children looking to put on their best performance.
I felt both overwhelming sadness and tremendous joy at seeing and remembering all the people who touched my life in a meaningful way. There was dad, and my grandparents, family friends, relatives, each bringing images of fun times, arguments and celebrations. Then there were the few dogs and many cats…some who stayed for years, some who were just rescues we briefly fostered. Then the other little creatures…my squirrel, mice, birds, chipmunks, even a snake. After that came the places I loved…seas, meadows, trees, rooms, books, objects. And finally, the hopes and dreams showed up.
All in all, quite a turnout.
Before I had a chance to absorb it all and figure out how exactly I was dealing with this crowd, I spoke to mom who told me that a dear friend was in the hospital hopefully recovering from brain surgery prompted by a tumor. Oh boy, another memory, of a beautiful lady and her children, a kitchen, treats, a few years of childhood spent together as close friends and neighbors. How short life is I thought…for it seems just yesterday she was running after her youngest, or settling a dispute between her daughters. And she was always laughing, even when things were difficult.
I don’t know how you feel about your own life, but in looking at mine, I felt once more suddenly overwhelmed by all the love, the beauty, and the wellness that surrounded me at all times. I didn’t always appreciate all of it, and sometimes I outright rejected some gifts. But now, for everything, I was grateful.
Still, too many partings I thought. For most, there was no room for regret, as partings are inevitable in a life where there is only so much time we have to share and be close to who and what we love. But in a few cases, I did find regret, like a dark, unnecessary cloud over beautiful things that needed only light. Yes, there were those instances where I did not appreciate what I had, did not acknowledge what was important, did not make the most of opportunities when it was possible even though I could have. And there isn’t anyone or anything to blame but myself…my low standards, my hesitation, my fear, my laziness, my complacency. So when the time came to part, I could not and did not part beautifully…and for that, I am sorry.
The hours passed in silence. There was no room for self-indulgent melancholy…only for honesty. I welcomed and smiled at my gratitude, then at my regrets. Guilt took an uncertain step forward, with dark and tired eyes, asking if there was room for her too. I took her hand, smiled and thanked her for coming teach me, yet again, about life and value.
Yes, partings in life are many and inevitable. They eventually come for everyone and everything, in their own time. And precisely because of this, there is no point in our parting sooner, or more often, instead of allowing things to come together, and nurturing what we have while it is still within our reach.
Because our lives are meant for living, and living fully…for celebrating each and every gift, making the most out of every opportunity. We have eyes to see not what is lacking or what may go wrong, but what is there, what is beautiful, and what will grow. We have minds, and bodies, and hearts and souls not so that we may shield ourselves from difficulties or efforts, but so that we may use them to create, to embrace, to share, to learn and grow.
We were given all that we have so when the time for partings eventually comes, we will be able to, and will therefore, part beautifully.