How shall the heart be reconciled/ to its feast of losses?
This time of year is undeniably about endings. This is so even as the world bursts into bloom around me, asserting the fact that no matter what, life will return and triumph. I am always heavy-hearted in the spring, as the school year closes. Something deep inside me operates on academic time; this has always been true, even in the interval between my own student life and the time when my childrens’ school calendar delineated my days. When your bloodstream pulses to the rhythm of school, early June is when things end. I can feel the ending hovering now, growing closer every day, its presence as tangible to me as the thick pollen in the air.
Some days it is simply too much for me. On these days the losses, the goodbyes, and the endings overwhelm me, and all I want to do is to sit down and sob. I was talking to a friend the other day about how I am sad about the end of school, and she looked me in frank astonishment. “Really?” she asked, genuinely surprised. “But aren’t you glad for the summer?” Yes, I said, I was, but saying goodbye to a year makes me genuinely, deeply sorrowful. It occurred to me in that moment, as it does over and over again, that there are lots of people out there who simply not sentimental. And it also occurred to me, not for the first time, that I’d often like to be one of them.
I guess I’m just awash in the end of things right now, much more aware of the bitter than the sweet. I ache for all that I have lost: hours, days, weeks, years of my life, my babies and my toddlers, friends and family who are gone from me, younger, more innocent versions of my own self. Yes. I know there are many good things ahead, and that every ending brings a beginning in its wake. I know this intellectually, but it is of no emotional solace when the endings and goodbyes seem to keep coming so relentlessly.
I fold up clothes that don’t fit the kids anymore, save the special things, hand the rest down. I scroll through old pictures in preparation for my college reunion next weekend. I am visited in my sleep and in my waking by my grandmothers and by Mr. Valhouli. All that I’ve lost rises up in front of me, sometimes, and I feel as though I could dive into it like into a wave. The past – those lost days and people – seems so near, and I am both reassured and shaken by its proximity. I can sense those past experiences in an almost-animate way, and I wonder at how something or someone who is gone can feel so near.
Stop! I feel like screaming in these fecund, beautiful, swollen-with-life days. I want to press pause and just sit still for one moment, but I can’t, and time cranks inexorably forward. As I try to grab onto the minutes of my life I feel them slipping by, so I tell myself all I can do is pay attention and live each one. Still, like a silk cord that I can’t quite grip, time ripples across my palm, and I weep as I watch it go. Even in the time it took to write this blog post I watched the sun slip beyond the horizon through my little office window, another day winding to its close.
Driving through Harvard Square this weekend I saw that they had put tents up for graduation. It reminded me of the deep ache in my gut that the sight of the reunions fences gave me every year in college. The fences meant the end was in sight. They delineated the site of each major reunion, but they also closed off another one of our precious years on campus. The fences always, always made me cry.
The fences and the tents in Harvard Square are just manifestations of the threshold between now and the next thing. I traverse this boundary every single year, and each time I’m startled, anew, by the pain that crossing entails. I am aware, all the time, of the losses my heart has sustained, but at this time, in liminal moments like the end of the school year or my birthday, I feel them especially sharply.