I read recently, “It’s never the changes we want that change everything.” I have really identified with this in the last few weeks. Change. It is both inevitable and the one thing we fight hardest against. We want so much to fix things, to put them in their place, to stop them from changing. And at times, we manage to do this. Everything is in its rightful place for a moment. We feel in control of our lives. Things are organized, arranged, a plan is in place, and we can sit back in relief.
And then a wave of changes comes once again. Maybe your body changes. Maybe there is a momentum shift in the office. A friend acts differently. Your house that was once clean is cluttered again. We manage to keep control for a moment and then control passes. In each moment we are changing, born again in a new idea. Our needs, desires, relationships, and bodies are in a constant state of flux.
. . .
Last Saturday I traveled back to Wisconsin to spend some time with my Grandma. It was a visit I’d been feeling the pull to make for a few months now. Her health has been declining for some time and in the depths of my heart I knew I needed to see her soon. We left Chicago and drove through snowy stretches of highway. With two hours to go, the great gray curtains of the sky pulled back to display a beautiful sunshine, a bright blue cloudless sky. We soaked in the warmth of the sun and I anticipated our visit.
I’d prepared myself to see a very changed woman as we walked into the living room. I turned the corner and there she was sitting in her chair, my Grandma, changed but not unrecognizable. She smiled when we walked in. I kissed her cheek and took a seat. We talked at length about the past few months in Chicago. We talked about how school has been going for Charlie, my work, our life in a new city. Just seeing her for those first few minutes eased a lot of things in me. I’ve been worrying about her for a while now. When the phone rings I worry that it will be the news I fear. But in those first moments, just seeing her as I remembered, chatting with her like the old days, helped me relax and enjoy our time together.
Before we left town on Sunday, she presented me with a necklace she purchased forty years ago. She held it out for me and it is a new treasure. Knowing she selected it just for me makes it so special.
I do not know what it will feel like not to have her in my life. It’s been too hard for me to think about. I know it is not worth the anguish and heartbreak to think such thoughts. I’ve found comfort in the many moments we’ve shared together: baking in her kitchen, going to breakfast at her favorite restaurant, playing catch in the yard in our younger days, sitting around the table listening to her stories about growing up on the farm, seeing her turn from the stove to kiss my Grandpa, the quiet drive back from the cemetery after we’d nailed a wind chime into the frozen December earth two weeks after his death, to see her relax in her chair after a lazy Sunday dinner –her cheeks rosy and head thrown back in laughter, walking her dog Jill (the dog everyone hated except for the two of us) down country roads, her impeccable style (always, always, always). I keep these memories close and pull them out when I feel sadness sinking in. I know things will change and I will not be able to do anything about it. I’ve tried to accept this, that everything that comes into being must change form or pass away. Each of us will. Our lives are precious gifts because of this very thing. Our time is fleeting. We have to accept this and live each day as brightly as possible to give the others around us memories to keep close.
And just for once I wish I could stop this. Hold time still for a little while. Place her sickness and pain in a box and ship it far, far, away.