We humans say “good-bye” often. People move on. Individuals succumb, their final farewells draped in silent repose. Friends outgrow one another. Divorce is a union stretched to the breaking point. Along with the empty nest (that parents had feathered so dutifully,) mommyhood slips through once busy, nurturing hands.
Parenthood is a lifelong process of letting go. Bittersweet. When children become adults (if ever!) and are no longer dependant on Mom and Dad, it should open a refreshing, challenging new door for the dedicated parents. Farewell to all the young person’s activities and the noisy commotion of teens in and out of the house. Dad regains the use of his sports car and Mom is free from baking brownies, and grass-stained sport’s uniforms, jockstraps, and sweaty socks strewn all over the laundry room. With aging, life-changing health issues can interrupt, or sadly dash a couple’s plans for their senior years, the season of renewal and change. The agony and heartache of Alzheimer’s disease, for instance, has been labeled “the long good-bye.” The deeper we love, the more distressed and helpless the families of the terminally ill become. Being well prepared for the inevitable doesn’t make the loss easier to bear or to accept. Parting is such sweet sorrow! My mother passed away from pancreatic cancer at age 63 in 1979. Meta Lewis outlived her doctor’s prognosis, that she would not be with us more than a year’s time, by six years. She chose not to have any cancer treatments, and courageously went on with her life, having lost our dad ten years earlier from a heart attack.
Though “farewell” was burrowed deep within our consciousness, we lived as though things were okay with Mother. She continued to work at the job she loved, at Camera Art in Lewiston. We were able to keep her in her own home as she neared the climax of her full life. I got to know Mom more intimately during that time, and came to realize how brave and faith-filled she had been throughout this ordeal.
The experience of taking care of her personal needs, as she had done for me in my childhood, was a transitional awareness that without our mom and grandmother, life as the eldest in our family would demand more and more of me. Ready or not!
Near the end, it was time for her to be cared for in a hospital. As I took her arm firmly in my grip, to walk her to our car, she paused on the lawn, turned her head, and sadly said, “Good-bye house.” Those two words tug at the heartstrings whenever our family recalls them.
Of course we humans have to let go of things from time to time, as well. I am grateful for the Salvation Army store for a hassle-free drop-off of clothes and just about anything others might have use for. I was still wearing “neat” shirts my boys wore in high school in the ‘80s. I’d been hanging onto such outdated stuff that some may be collectors’ items by now.
I have kept my faded, blue, fleece-lined sweatshirt, frayed at the edges, sporting a jagged tear at the bottom, with UPNORTH stitched across the bodice. It had suffered a burn hole from a stray hot ash from our campfire up at Chetek. Maybe that’s why I can’t part with it. Will it still be among my keepsakes, as I sit in my auto recliner, my walker at my side, with no place to go and no exciting new memories to make?
On the verge of farewell, summer shows signs of decay and nakedness, of tomatoes and cucumbers gone to seed, the biting scent of dry leaves, raked and smoldering by the garden, and Grandfather’s last blazing sunset, out where the grove of apple trees meets an ageless field of corn, seed by seed, row on row...the final harvest.
Heaven is in the air!
Janet Burns loves to hear from readers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org