Undeniably about endings

How shall the heart be reconciled/ to its feast of losses?
(Stanley Kunitz)

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.

A repost from last year, and very much how I am feeling right now.  I’m in New Hampshire with our extended family, the other two legs of the stool, for the now-traditional Memorial Day in New Hampshire.  Back tomorrow.

7 thoughts on “Undeniably about endings”

  1. My father’s brother died of cancer in May of 1993. Both of his parents passed away in consecutive Mays (’98 and ’99, I believe). Last May we lost my husband’s sweet, smart cousin in a car wreck. This time of year has always hung heavy on my heart. And, like you, the academic calendar is very much a part of me. It feels like an ending.

    But unlike you, I don’t feel the desire to stop time. My tendency is to rush forward, get past the sadness, and move on to the next big thing. I believe deep in my core that one day we won’t be subjects to time’s strict authority. I think that’s how I justify my literal flightiness. Still, this post has inspired me to slow down, be where I am, and enjoy these precious moments I’ll never get again.
    Love to you, Lindsey!

  2. You are in my head. So much is coming to a close for me this week, and I’m grieving the losses. Savoring what is left and making memories. Happy spring, happy June, and happy new beginnings to you and your family!

  3. I love this so much just as I did the first time. Especially this:

    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.

    I personally LOVE summer but I feel the exact way you described during the fall. That is my ending time. Thank you for the breathtakingly beautiful way you described it!!!!

  4. I recently ran across a quote by Lao Tzu from the ancient, spiritual text, Tao Te Cheng.

    “If you are depressed you are living in the past.

    If you are anxious you are living in the future.

    If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

    It makes so much sense to my life and the reason I have experiences all three of these things. It is my greatest desire to live more presently and at peace, but I am intimate with how it feels to constantly live elsewhere.

  5. My favorite Stanley Kunitz quote. Just slays me.

    I appreciate the reminder to be present this time of year and notice the passage of time, to mark the endings. I tend to stagger across the finish line in June, relieved to be “done”. You remind me of the richness in beginnings and endings. To gather them up and really let them sink into my bones. Thank you.

  6. I’m one of those people uncomfortable with celebrations and milestones. Maybe I’m not sentimental? I’m not sure what that word really means though?

    Does it mean needing markers to express emotion or do we all process in our own ways?

    I rarely cry and I don’t mark milestones. My brother, sister, mother and I sat with my dad as he died but none of us shed a tear. He didn’t want us too because he would be helpless in our grief. He couldn’t stop his death and he certainly didn’t want to die and couldn’t change anything.

    We didn’t want a funeral so it was just us in the back of the funeral home in front of the oven. He didn’t want a coffin because he thought it was ridiculous to burn an extra object. So we cremated him in the cardboard box from the morgue. And so it goes.

    It’s been almost 8 years. I miss him every minute but I don’t mark his passing. My mom and siblings scattered his ashes in the Atlantic Ocean without me because I live 3000 miles away (I grew up in MA which is where they all still live).

    I’ve never been to where they put his ashes. I don’t feel compelled too because I feel who he is was left the day he died. He didn’t and I don’t believe in anything beyond this life.

    I don’t know what the answer is. I just feel that we’re all on this journey and time isn’t going to stop for any of us. I miss what was but mourning what was won’t change what is to come.

    I guess I live with what is and am happy I had what came before.

    Thank you for your thought provoking post.

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