Sunday, January 7, 2018

Swiss cheese hearts

Today would have been my mother's 91st birthday. Next week will be the five-year anniversary of her death. I still can't believe she's been gone that long. 

Five years ago today, my husband and I were in Manheim, Pennsylvania visiting with her. The night before her 86th birthday, we played 13 hands of Pinochle. She kept score. And she beat us nearly every hand. Although her body was plagued with pain (I blame the Lipitor her doctor prescribed), her mind was still sharp. She remained in the home I grew up in, did her own chores and laundry, and was still driving (although that was starting to be a concern). Her plan for that year was to sell the house and move to a retirement community in Pittsburgh so she could be near our family and watch her great-grandchildren grow up. It was a good plan; one we all looked forward to. But it never happened.

Life's like that, isn't it? We dream. We plan. We love. And we lose. Over and over again, especially as we age, we attend funeral after funeral. Sometimes we have the chance to say goodbye. Often, we do not.

Time goes by and grief remains, although the years tend to muffle it. Hearts become drafty, with Swiss cheese-type holes throughout. We are not alone in our experience of suffering. Hour-by-hour, folks join our clubs; the clubs for widows, for orphans, and, worst of all, the club for the unnamed -- parents who've lost children.

We can't escape it, so there's no use trying. Embracing the "I am a rock" mentality Paul Simon sang about is pointless. Why? Because in the attempt to avoid the pain of loss, you live with the constant pain of loneliness. It's simply not a good exchange.

The good news is we can experience the joy these people -- spouses, parents, friends, siblings, and, yes, even children -- have brought to our lives, for however long they were here with us.

For me, my mom was with me for 55 years. How wonderful is that? 

So, today, rather than focusing on her death, I'm celebrating her 86 years and the 55 she spent loving me. 

I am blessed.

Who are you missing today?

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