It was my first Christmas without parents. A friend reminded me that this will be my first New Year as an "orphan."
It is very difficult, more so than I ever anticipated.
Sadness, gratitude, joy and hope all mixed up in an emotional bundle I didn't see coming.
This Christmas forced a time of refocus, of realization, of recognition. I expect the New Year will be the same.
Both my dad and my mom are gone.
Hard to grasp.
Brenda's folks passed away over a decade ago. They were precious people, and very important to me and, of course, to her. She warned me of the surprising emotions that would wipe me out. No warning could really prepare me. You just have to be there, as so many of you know as well as or much better than I.
Today I realize, possibly for the first time, just how much my parents loved me, how much they sacrificed for me. This "after-the-fact" realization adds to the burden, as well as the gratitude.
I miss them. Not complicated.
At the same time, I realize in a brand new way just how much I love those who remain near my side.
Brenda and I will have been walking together for 40 years, if we make it until June 2009.
Where did the time go? Sounds so trite, but the feelings are anything but routine. She has put up with an awful lot! When we married, she had no idea! She couldn't have been a better partner than she has been and will be. I'm grateful for her. Somehow, again an unexpected result of their both having left us, I am more in touch than ever before about just how much I love her.
This death-induced magnifying glass has had the same affect on my heart as I think of our daughters, their husbands and our three grandchildren. My family means everything to me. We are so very blessed. My parents taught me that, tried to help me see it while they were here. It is almost as if their departure provided the last, best lesson about just how important my family is to me, and will be until it is my turn to move on.
We are on a journey through life.
Those closest to us who accompany us are the most important to us.
We need each other.
And, we need other people as well. Friends, neighbors, community members, community life and the support and joy it brings us. I felt and experienced the power of community in the passing of both of my parents. Working to sustain and to expand relationships with other people is a good way to spend one's days.
Today, January 2, 2009, my mom would have celebrated her 88th birthday.
But, she is gone.
And, I am at the head of the line now.
It feels okay to be "next."
What is most important is clearer today as the new year begins.
You know, you just see things differently from the front of the line.