Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Circle of Life: Turnings

I had a completely different topic ready to run today, but I shelved it because I found this to be a far more pressing topic. A dear friend of mine lost his father this week. The man had led a long and happy life. His children and wife were around him and he had gotten to know his grandchildren who are now adults. Whereas I don’t mourn for the life that is lost as he is now free from pain and finally at rest, I do feel saddened for the many lives he left behind. No matter how old one is, how complicated a relationship may be, losing a parent, I can only guess, is heart-wrenchingly sad.

I am inordinately close with my parents. We speak several times a week, I share my accomplishments and my fears with them, and I rely on them for support. In recent years I have filled the role of keeper of the hearth; I host Christmas, birthday parties, and dinners at my home because they no longer live in the area. Now I am the mother, homemaker, and hostess. Sometime, when I wasn’t really paying attention, I have usurped my mother’s role and she is reaping the rewards of just showing up! My father and I speak even more often. He has embraced technology including cell phone use, email, and Facebook as well as following my many writing sites via my website They are both proud of me but also relieved that my life is sorted out; I am fulfilling my destiny and my place in the Circle of Life. As devastated as I know I will be when I will one day lose my parents, I am bracing myself. I am in somewhat of a dress rehearsal; by raising my family, taking on the duties of the hearth, and taking on the more dynamic starring role in my life, I am conscious that my job will consist of having to move on to be there for my children. Before I had children I thought losing my parents would destroy me. No one likes to think about these situations, but they do exist. Now I know that by having my children, and, frankly, growing up, I am certain that as horrendously sad as it will be, I will be strong.

Familial relationships are complicated, entangled, and frustrating. We did not choose our family, we just are. So, no matter that siblings were raised by the same parents, personalities, beliefs, and values are many times completely polar opposite of one another. What losing a loved one does, however, especially a parent, is put into perspective the pettiness that can drive us apart. We may never agree so we must agree to disagree. We may have past hurts, but to keep us apart without talking only hurts us and solves nothing. We cannot change people but we can change how we react to people. Many show outpouring of regret when a loved one passes, but I suggest not waiting until death reunites. Fix what’s wrong. Move on. Be better equipped to handle. And be thankful there is someone to whom you are related in this world. Parent or sibling, these relationships are paramount to creating healthy relationships outside of the family.

Two summers ago my husband’s grandmother turned ninety. I was pregnant with my daughter and we were suffering financial difficulties. Taking time off and affording the trip to Iowa (where she lived) seemed astronomical and unnecessary. When my husband and I discussed the matters we took the following approach. We realized that we’d rather put the time, money, and effort to see Grandma at this joyous, celebratory time, than to have to do so for a funeral and have regrets about not seeing her during happy times. We went. Three months later, a couple of days after our daughter was born, Grandma passed. We were saddened, but, like my friend I wrote about above, she had led a full, happy life. She’d met her grandchildren and even four of her seven great-grandchildren (she saw pictures of my daughter for several days before she succumbed). Her death was sad. The family gathered sans my children and me, as I couldn’t travel to Iowa with a newborn. I was so very grateful we had gone to celebrate during the summer and my last memories of Grandma were of an ecstatically happy woman.

No one knows how much time they have. These two senior citizens I’ve written about were blessed to have led such long, wonderful lives. The ideas I take away are to take every opportunity to spend time together, don’t let disagreements run rampant and define the relationship, and make time for the celebrations; they make the sadness more bearable when you are left to go through it.


  1. What a touching and insightful article! My father will turn 88 this August, we plan to celebrate the "big day" with lots of family and friends!

  2. Nicely put. Indeed, there's been more than one funeral where we say to another family member or friend "we've got to meet at a better function."

  3. Touching Blog with good advice Chief :-)

  4. Wonderful blog Chief, the only thing I can say is as much as it surrounds us and the thought of not having a parent is there, one is never prepared for it when it happens. The one thing that stands out above all is people tend to think of a parent/child bond, but that bond works both ways. Losing my mom was a hard for me as it would have been for her lose me. We're made of the same things, our blood is shared and within that, somewhere is a bond that never breaks.
    (this is Jesse btw--I finally got it to let me comment)

  5. Thank you so much for your post, Jesse. It means a lot to me that you took the time (and practiced perseverance) to leave it.
    I cannot pretend to know the pain and loss you suffer; but, I will tell you this. Having children in your life makes the losing of a parent just a little bit less difficult. Because, in the "theory" of life, your parents are supposed to die before your children. Losing your own children is simply unnatural and wrong. Losing a parent, as devestating as that is, is the natural way of things in the Circle of Life. A parent dies a child is born.

  6. My mom was in ICU for 52 days. She was then transfered into a regular room. That day, my pregnant sister in law was visiting and my mom put her hand on he enlarged belly and nearly pushed my sister in law through the wall. She passed away the next day, but when the baby was born she wound up having the same personality traits as my mother. Every time I see my niece I think of my mom.
    Mom my be gone, but she left a piece of herself behind.

  7. Extraordinarily touching, Grumpa. Thank you for posting that.