Goodbyes are hard. I dread some goodbyes even when I know it is for the best. As a writer, I say sayonara to my characters and I send them out into the world knowing they will take on a life of their own. I can do the same as a mother, but it is infinitely more painful. After all, I can revise a character, plan their plot twists for them, and predict everything they'll do. I can even write them happily ever afters.
Not so with children.
Kids grow up and become autonomous - how rude! They make choices independent of my plans for them. They have adventures that I, who nurtured them, could never have foreseen, let alone some I am not invited to join. They travel to distant lands, develop their own interests, meet the world on their own terms. Sometimes they screw up and I can't write them out of it. And, sometimes they succeed brilliantly through no help of mine.
As my son leaves to study abroad, I am forced to admit - to myself, mostly - that it is time to let go. As my daughters gracefully disagree with me on matters beyond my control, I realize I have done all that I can. If love is about giving, then I am preparing to love my children more than ever as I give them what was always their birthright; their independence. It's a gift that costs more than they will ever know...
...at least... until they have kids of their own.
Safe travels, my dear ones - by air, over land, and through life. My love goes with you, always.
Writing My Own Eulogy
"She always wanted to be a writer, but..."
I've been attending a lot of funerals lately...well, singing at them, actually. It is something I have done since I was eleven years old when my father, a minister, asked me to share my voice with a bereaved family that I didn't even know. It sounds weird, but I like singing at funerals, probably more so than weddings, which I also do. I like using all of my gifts, and when it benefits others - in this case bringing comfort and peace into a difficult situation - I feel like I am using them to their greatest potential. I also sing in a hospice choir, a church choir, and have taught music at my children's school passing on my love of music to the next generation.
But, funerals are what's on my mind today.
People always say nice things about the deceased at funerals, even the sparsely attended ones. And rightly so; speaking ill of the dead is poor form, and benefits no one. Listening to folks eulogize their loved ones you would think they were all the most perfect people on the planet. Things they are best remembered for are rarely noteworthy accomplishments, rather, they are the times when they made other people feel special. The times when they poured themselves out in little acts that made a huge difference in someone else's life.
What you don't hear is anyone raving about Uncle Fred's cooking, because Uncle Fred* was a bachelor farmer who always took his supper at the local diner. He never taught anybody to knit with those meaty fingers of his because he never cared a lick for needlework, or woolen goods for that matter. And his lectures on life were limited to single sentences cuz he never was much of a talker. But...he always planted a tree whenever he felled one. And his weed-free garden - kept as a hobby - supplied the neighborhood with the hugest, juciest beefsteak tomatoes you ever tasted. He could play the harmonica like nobody's business. His laugh was contagious, the type of belly-shaking, twinkly-eyed good humor that folks associate with Santa, which he played every Christmas at the town hall community supper, doling out candy canes and gifts to all the local children from his own limited savings. He was always up for lending a hand, and one time, when the neighbor's pregnant cow got mired neck deep in the manure pit, he strapped on an antique gas mask and went in after it when no one else was willing. The little boy watching anxiously from the fence went on to become a rescue diver, citing Uncle Fred as his inspiration.
You see, we're all writing our own eulogies each and every day, with each act. Much of what we do won't ever get acknowleged - and that's probably a good thing. (Fred's three day benders were few and far between, but when he went on one - boy, oh boy!) It is in the everyday living of our lives that what we will be remembered for comes out. Only time will tell what that is. Some are destined for greatness, and others for simplicity. Most of us have both in us, and our choices reveal it to the world.
"If we have greatness in us it may be in the ripples, and not the splash we make."
I would like to be remembered as someone who used what she had to benefit not just herself, but others. As someone who didn't just dream about becoming, but became by inspiring others to become along the way. I won't be remembered as a math whiz (or even someone who never uttered a harsh word, unfortunately), but I hope folks will remember that writer/artist/singer/mother/friend who added a little beauty and inspiration to the world, and encouraged them to do the same.
*Uncle Fred is a fabrication and not even loosely based on anyone. Any resemblance to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental, and taken as a compliment to the author's imagination and descriptive writing skills.
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The Swing of Things
Who doesn't love to swing? (And, I mean that in the most innocent way!)
As a kid I could swing for hours, especially when there was someone there to push me. Pumping back and forth, arcing higher and higher, gliding to a lazy stop, then dragging my feet through the sand (or snow) beneath me - all of it was good. Another push to start the cycle all over, and I was on my way.
No matter the season, swinging was a perfect pasttime. On a swing I felt free.
I'm older now, and don't do the back and forth motion as well. It leaves me feeling slightly queasy, even with my eyes closed so that I can't see the ground falling away. I'm told it has something to do with the inner ear, an unbalancing of the fluid in the auditory canal. It's the same thing that makes you dizzy from spinning. (I used to love riding the merry-go-round, too, but I don't miss it like I do swinging.) It's harder to enjoy the back and forth - the waxing and waning - of creative energy as an adult, too. I find myself slipping into the winter blahs around this time each year, not because of the weather, but because I have been away from creating too long. With the kids off to school last August, I took off like a first-grader getting an underdog (swing lingo for the most effective type of push). I pumped like mad and cranked out 12 chapters before I tired, and started the slow glide into the Christmas season. Fall's momentum used up, and a million other things on my plate, I came to a writing standstill over the holidays. Now I need a push to get going again, but unlike a kid learning to swing, I have to get myself moving.
So...this is me, rocking back and forth, trying to get back into the swing of things. It may take a little while - and a whole lot of effort! - but writing is one pleasure I never intend to give up.
See you on the playground!
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