Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Thinking About Loss

My life is full of abundance in so many, many ways. Sometimes I can't seem to properly conceive of all my blessings, often so undeserved, that fill up my days and my moments.

Lately though, there has also been loss in my life. On Sunday someone I cared for very deeply breathed her last breath and I found myself saying goodbye to a woman who spent countless hours loving me, caring for me, supporting me and encouraging me. (Often when I didn't even realize it.) She was my "Meme."

Meme, and her husband Pepe, cared for my sister and me while our parents were at work from the time we were born. From infancy to toddlerhood, through the preschool years and well beyond. We went to their house each day after school, Meme made our snacks, sewed us endless dolls, doll clothes and doll blankets. Pepe cut thousands of paper dolls. We walked to the playground, attended library story hours and went out to lunch "downtown," which was the thrill of a lifetime in my younger years. We roller skated in the basement, tinkered with Pepe's tools, helped Meme cook her famous Shepherd's Pie (which I still make for my family today). Meme and Pepe were integral parts of my childhood, and I know that I am a better person for having loved, and been loved, by them.

Pepe died over a decade ago, and Meme moved to an assisted living facility so she could find comfort and companionship among friends her age. She battled cancer more than once, watched loved ones pass on, and remained relentlessly optimistic until the very, very end. While I will miss her (I already do), and my children will miss our visits to see her (no matter how long we went between visits they always crawled right up on her lap, as though they knew her heart was kind before remembering her official significance to them), I can't bring myself to focus too heavily on my own loss. Because, when I'm honest with myself, my 93 year-old Meme was ready to complete life on this earth and to move on to the peace and tranquility that she knew was coming. She was a woman of devout faith, and I don't believe she ever feared the end of this life, so sure was she of where she was headed. I'm sure of it, too.

So I find myself grateful for her that her struggle with cancer is finally over. The end was quick, but not so quick that we weren't able to say good-bye and to thank her for the enduring impact she had on our lives. It brought pain at the thought of loosing her, but also companionship and love between those of us who sat by her side to say goodbye, and myriad funny, lovely stories to reminisce about. And she's at peace now, which fills my heart with joy for her.

Sunday also brought the last day of "work" for me in my position as Christian Education Director at my church. Our family is moving on in hopes of finding a farm of our own, and so I've taken a similar position at a new church, located closer to farmable lands. Although I am excited about the change and about what the future holds for my family, I also feel tremendous loss at the thought of saying goodbye to friends who have shared so much with my family and me. My church family has seen us through the ups and downs of life, the illness of a child, and have spured our spiritual development in a way I could never have excepted when I first walked through those church doors four years ago.

This loss is different than death of course, in many ways less acute, since I will continue to see these friends and attend church events as our schedules allow. But it is a loss none the less, and I would do muself a disservice where I to treat it as anything but. My heart needs to mourn the loss of weekly contact with this church family so that I can be open to welcming new friends at my new place of worship.

So, I am thinking about loss lately. What one looses in life, and also what one gains, as I see the two inextricably linked. The old adage "when God closes a door He opens a window" comes to mind continually, and I find myself looking now for the windows. The window of Meme's peace, the window of new opportunities for my family and me, the window of simple change to rejeuvenate and challenge me.

I write this on Tuesday, with the sun streaming bountifully through my living room window, and a cool breeze blowing the smell of my garden's lavender into my home. I smile as I realize that I've literally opened every door and window in my house to let that beautiful radiance in. Yes, opening doors and windows literally and proverbially, I suppose.

So, loss. Yes, loss. But also blessing. And opportunity. And peace. For these, I am grateful.

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