This year has just about finished itself up. All year long, I’ve heard myself fretting at how quickly time is passing by. Then again, this certainly isn’t the first year I can remember feeling this way. Memories and experiences continue to stack up. The number of lessons learned grows. Pick a cliché. Time marches on. Or … Life passes in the blink of an eye. Or … Time flies when you’re having fun. Or … You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. 2018 has been a mixture of them all.
When the future me looks back across the timeline of my life, this year will likely stand out as one of the more challenging ones. My mom’s passing in February had a profound and difficult impact. And as I write these words, it occurs to me that almost everything I’ve written in the past couple of years ties back to death and grief. It feels like there’s been too much loss in my life over the past four years. It’s a sobering reminder that the years ahead of me are certainly fewer than the number behind me. And I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever write anything again that doesn’t point to the fragility of life. But then again, death is a fact of life, more so the higher one’s age climbs, and I’d worry if it didn’t significantly alter my thought patterns and behaviors. So I think I’m pretty comfortable that overall, I’m travelling in the generally right direction on the path of life, even if I’m not always on the quickest, smoothest route.
Anyway, years down the road when I look back on this one, I think it’s going shine. That’s not to say that I wasn’t deeply saddened at losing my mom. Many days since have been harder than others, and the sadness is surely something I’ll feel in varying degrees for years to come. There’s a certain darkness to knowing that every day going forward will be absent the presence of both of my parents as well as many family members that had come before me. And even though from a very early age, I understood the comings and goings of people from this life, it took until recently to really grasp the hole each loss leaves in the heart. Still, it was this particular year, and this particular loss that really opened my eyes to so much.
The passing of time and the decline of our parents’ health, like it does for so many others, caused a huge divide in my family. Prior to Mom’s passing, I thought the reasons and the potential cure were so obvious. The person I was then thought that it was all very black and white. The person I used to be was ready to simply walk away once Mom was no longer here to bind us together. I will always regret that it took losing her for me to realize how wrong I was. If I could turn back time, I would work harder to pull it together while she was still here. There will always be an ache in my heart when I remember that her last Christmas was divided because her children couldn’t rise above their differences.
But I hope that from where they are now, our parents can see how our family has healed since then. For me, this is the single most significant occurrence of the past year. My siblings and I have forgiven each other and remembered how to love one another. There’s no need to dwell on why things were the way they were before. No need to judge. I have come to accept that it simply was what it was. I thought I had it all figured out, but it was something different for each of us. For me, it was the development of a deep and mutually loving bond with my mother, something I had not felt during the early years of my life. To have the chance to find it near the end of her life was the best gift I could ever receive.
My relationships with my siblings are healing, and growing stronger, and it pains me that I once thought I might toss some of them to the wayside. Sure, we can still get on each other’s nerves now and then. But I’ve learned to stop taking everything so personally. This Christmas, in spite of the absence that was so obvious to us all, was infinitely more than I could have hoped for. It was full of love and laughter, and many tears were shed both from sadness and from joy. We’ll all go forward from here, facing whatever life throws our way … and we’ll do it together.