In endings are beginnings


The Call of the Siren was silent in the past several weeks as my mom’s health turned and we lost her — just as 2013 locked its doors and turned out the lights.

When a loss is coming, we prepare for the worst — for the pain and sorrow. We rarely think about silver linings. That’s why, aside from grief and shock, I was surprised to find myself living the circularity of myth in her last days and in the days after.

I’m talking about the kind of circularity represented by the Phoenix, or that Lisa Ohlen Harris describes at the end of her book The Fifth Season: A Daughter-in-Law’s Memoir of Caregiving (Texas Tech University Press). Of her mother-in-law Jeanne, Harris writes:

I miss Jeanne. I do. We’ve started a new life in a beautiful place because Jeanne died and released me from caregiving. Now instead of learning side effects to medications, I am memorizing the names of the trees and mountain ranges and the April flowers springing up in my garden.

I’ve just pulled off my gloves and am brushing damp soil from the knees of my jeans when I hear geese. I tilt my head up and raise a hand to shield myself from the rain as I peer into the sky and see the flock overhead, winging and honking and flying free to their summer home.

Her ending pulled me like a magnet, and I wanted to share the last grafs about renewal with you, my friends, even though I have nothing else to say.

It just feels good to feel the keypads under my fingers.

For more of Ohlen Harris’ ruminations, visit her blog here.

11 thoughts on “In endings are beginnings

  1. a fine brief memorial… will be thinking of you as I drive by Glendora on Friday for TRONA… And the generosity to include another’s book!)

  2. Oh, Nick, it feels so weird to “like” this post. I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my mother five years ago, and I just came across something I’d kept after cleaning out her dresser. It was a post-it note that she’d pinned to a short, black negligee with a pearl hatpin. It read: “Guess your mom wasn’t always old. Love you.” I still cry when I read it, but I also feel very close to her when I read it or think of it. You’ve written beautifully about your loss. And I think you said just enough.

  3. Your words remind me that, no matter how prepared we think we are for the loss of a loved one, it always surprises us.

    I was my mother’s caregiver for the last fifteen years of her life. When she died at 93, I hardly could believe it. She’d lived so long, it seemed as though she’d live forever. She knew better, and was more than prepared to move on to whatever waited – but for those of us who remained? It still was a shock.

    Your words about circularity remind me of the marvelous song, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” . It’s an old-fashioned song, yet one of the greatest blessings of my life was to somehow stumble into an old-fashioned burial for Mom, right up to talking with the grave-digger as he labored on her resting spot, and laying her ashes to rest myself. It made the circularity of life an experience, rather than a concept.

    Reality, it seems, is much like a cauterizing knife – it wounds and heals at the same time. Now wounded, may your healing be swift.

  4. My condolences–and prayers for a good season of grieving–I am only now learning about that myself. Aside from that, how could I resist a blog with your title? Call of the Siren–I wonder if we all have one calling us?

  5. Thank you. That stopped me in the middle of rushing around, and made me sit in a still and present place for a moment, here, and, in that Canada geese moment, also linked to forward and back

  6. I just wanted you to know that I appreciate your good wishes — a little note arrived in my inbox that alerted me to it. It was such a nice surprise. I think you’re right — we all have a siren calling us. It’s just a matter of identifying what it is. Best wishes to you.

  7. Yep, good job with this post Nick. It’s tender and harrowing but tells a tale of hope and shines the torch of curiosity for what is still to be.
    My kindest regards,

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