Saturday, August 14, 2010


I thought I'd said all that needed saying about my Eldest leaving home.  When I've wondered if something more needed to be said, I've sometimes clicked back to  daughter's words that could have been my own back when, mother's words that could be mine now.  

Reminding myself.  Renewal, ripeness, times and seasons. 
Consoling myself. Patterns, cycles of all kinds, the eternal return.

What more needed to be said?

It's not like I've had time hanging slack on my hands to dwell on her going.  Nor energy, nor space, to open wide the door and let in all the sorrow I might feel at her going. 

Why should I sorrow? 

Would I want her to stay away from college?  to never go from home? That would be the tragedy.  Not this natural and fortunate progression.

And if ever the door gaped onto looming departures, I would turn back in mind to Things that Change.  If necessary, would click over and read it just once more. 

Yes, everything had been said. 

And in this way have kept trouble's door secure and shut.  

Really I'm not that sad about her leaving.
Really I'm excited about her studying neuroscience, European history, world dance, more calculus.
Really I'm looking forward to hearing all about it.

And I am.

I am.

But all this door-closing only means that grief must find a way to creep up on me unawares.  Like last week, sitting in the congregation, watching Eldest lead the singing as she has done for the past two years. 

Realizing, as my eyes drank in this freshness and competence that is herself, that when I come back to sit in this pew a few short weeks from now, it will not be she leading the music.  It will not be on her that I will rest my eyes all through the meeting as I've been doing these two past years. 

I would be here. 

But she would be there.  And someone else would be leading the music.

This is the order of things.  I know.  Things change. 
Morning, evening.  Daughter, mother.  Seed, flower, fruit.

But it shook me suddenly - how she was advancing into a new category of being -  shook me so sudden, so hard, that I, who do not cry in public, was shaking with silent sobs. 

Because I would miss her. 
Because I'm not ready for this next rotation.

Generally, I love change.  The seasons, the rotation of hours through the day.  Dough to bread.  Scraps and weeds to humus.  I like the way responsibilities shift, the way authority rotates through our congregation. 

Not all that  many years ago, when I was president of the children's Primary program, the leader of our congregation now was one of my best teachers.  His readiness to follow me, when I was his leader, makes it that much easier to follow his leadership now.

Though last Sunday I tried to slump away, ducking a tear-swollen face, when his sympathetic glance darted back and forth from my daughter leading us all, chin up and smiling, her arm measuring out the music with a steady beat, to me choking over the words of praise.

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice -
Rejoice!  Again I say - Rejoice!
Many years ago, I had balked when first asked to work with little children.  I had, through the first years of adulthood, been teaching grown-ups in gospel doctrine.  Which was an important doing, I thought, calling on skills at exegesis and close-reading, calling forth insight and inspiration and interesting discussions, and which I loved. 

So some change I haven't been so in love with.

Until I learned to love working with the three to eleven year olds, how to catch and keep their attention, how to feel myself renewed in their presence. By  the time I'd come to delight in them all - the neatly scrubbed and quick-to-answer almost as much as the scowling and flippant - then of course I was asked to change again. 

And I balked.  Teenagers?  I who was not cool, but over-earnest and over-blunt? Who had no glamour, no great ideas for activities, but only a stubborn unshakable sense of God's love for me, for each person I've ever come to see and know.

Balking, and still I learned.  To listen more than I spoke, to ask what they believed instead of telling them what they should.  To share, bluntly and earnestly, what was true to me.  Learned that a sense of God's love was, after all, enough. 

So that I mourned leaving my young women when a few months ago I was asked to learn to lead the monthly choir, taking tutelage from my Eldest who is musically limber where I am limping.

There are cycles at work here already.  Renewals and shifts of authority.

Last Sunday when I, too overcome with mislaid sorrow to stay, strode from the chapel, face wet and red -  who came first to comfort me?  A young woman who used to come over after school as much or more, I think, to talk over boyfriends and their stupidities to me as to get math tutoring from Fritz - it was she first came to me, "Are you okay?  I think you need a hug." 

And when I had somewhat recovered and made my way back to the congregation now dispersing to their separate classes - adult Gospel Doctrine, youth Sunday School, children's Primary, another young woman, her hair black today though it has been blue and pink and shades between, whose steampunk vintage goth style I love and have told her so - it was she who sought me out, "Here, I have something for you."  Searching for it in her purse, then grinning at me, handing me an unopened packet of tissues,  "I was thinking you might like to use these."

And yes, I felt lifted and consoled. 
Renewed and reassured. 

That this cycle rolling onward is one that has been good to me in the past. 

Why should I not trust that change will bring me good things in the future?
As good as the things change has brought me in the past?


Lisa B. said...

You should, you should. Trust that change.

And also, in my opinion you should cry as much as you want to. Because it's all the same thing. The crying and the trusting, the grieving and the looking forward.

Melissa said...

This entry twists my heart and fills me a bit with panic at the thought of my children someday leaving, and I still have well over a decade before I have to face that reality (although attending kindergarten is seeming like an unbearable departure at the moment). I feel your sorrow, Emma J, at the departure of Eldest. You so beautifully express that sorrow, and the struggle to find solace in it.

I'm not sure I trust the change yet. But you inspire me to try.

Clowncar said...

like Melissa, this makes me a tad panicky, though, like Melissa, it is a decade away.

I like how you reveal the meaning of the title of the blog, and the meaning behind the photo, there at the very end.

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