Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone
And under mountains in the moon.
I read “The Hobbit” when I was very young. So did my son. He went on to read the rest of the series and so I felt compelled to also, thinking as I picked them up that they were full of war and gore, but I was surprised. When the movies were made my son and his friends could not wait till they hit the theater. One of his buddies secured a midnight showing at a local theater so that it officially showed on its opening date. Our family went to the opening to find most of the young people dressed in costume celebrating the book and its characters. I knitted a hat and felted it for one of my son’s friends so he could be the wizard Gandalf. The young man who had secured the theater had constructed a vest of chain-mail made completely from teaspoons. I had never had so much fun attending a movie, even though it was a bit difficult to stay awake. The energy from all the youth, and the enthusiasm for the storyline was contagious. A tradition was begun that would be repeated as each segment of the “Lord of the Rings” movie series was unveiled.
Those of us who have children complain sometimes that we feel taken for granted. Perhaps we take our children for granted too. We at times recognize how very special they are but I think we do not always recognize the gifts we receive from them. The world, time, responsibilities, stress, all have an eroding effect on our memory. We loose some of the precious things if we are not careful.
Death turns on a spotlight that burns when we stand still. We blink and shield our eyes, but if we are wise we will take a moment to examine ourselves before we try to step out of it. What was our relationship with the person who is now gone? What do we regret? What did we learn?
A friend of mine pointed out to me the other day that the casual observer or one making acquaintance with me and my husband would probably say I am the more, shall we say as kindly as possible, highly charged personality of the two. My husband, a very kind and gentle man runs very deep. I feel like I cannot keep anything in and it all bubbles up on the surface for better or for worse. Outspoken, perhaps a bit rashly so, preferring straightforward interaction to subterfuge and passive aggressive behavior I blurt out the things on my mind. When you mess up, you ‘fess up and apologize – even if the infraction has cost you a friendship. Even if the apology heals no wounds – you are to do what is right. It is not fun ,but it cuts down on the guilt – that gift that keeps on giving. Though my mother would not have had me do it, she believing that children were not owed an apology for anything, I apologize to my children when I realize I have messed up. I apologize in “case” I have messed up. Honesty can be painful, and in my honesty, I truly hope I hurt no one, and if I have, please know it was not intended to hurt.
The spotlight was not uncomfortable for me and my husband. We were fortunate to have had a good loving relationship with our son. Our loss, however, is monumental, a road going ever, ever on into a future without him. It is a pendulum swinging in space from joy to sorrow, sorrow to joy. The spotlight has dimmed a bit and we stand slightly off stage, and the stage is sadly empty.
It would take a lifetime to enumerate the gifts my children have given me great and small. They have shared their ideas and insights with me. They have encouraged me to step out and try new things, go new places, experience new tastes. We have read books together, learned new skills, laughed and cried together. I have great new music because of them and my bookcase is crowded with their taste in literature. They have allowed me to be friends with their friends who have brought even more joy into my life. I rejoice in them, delight in them, cherish them and like Mary so long ago “treasure these things and ponder them in my heart.” I am so thankful to be the mother of these people.
My challenge for myself, has been to daily unearth some forgotten artifact of my joy with my children. To shine it up and put it out to look at for the day, to remind myself of the blessing that they are. It is scary to think who I might have been without them!
If you are so blessed as to have children consider your own collection for a moment. We are given memory for some purpose other than to collect wrongs committed against us and load us down with grudges to keep. The trick is to give the memory it’s due and then move on, like scattering breadcrumbs on the path – where you might return one day, or maybe not. Crossing the rock, stopping for shade under the tree, feeling the chill of the snow, the fragrance of the flowers and allowing yourself to stand, face shining in the moon. Happily I have done all these things and more, thankfully in the company of my children, many times led by my son. His death is also leading on the trail where I too must one day go. In the meantime I will gather up the bouquet of memories and breath deeply of their fragrance and with each new day gather more flowers from those of us who remain.