When I graduated from William Woods in 1981 the ceremony was solemn, beautiful and meaningful. Graduates lined up behind the class president who wore a robe with all the lovely embroidery of many years down the front. We were connected by, and carried, an ivy chain on our shoulders as we were led, single file across the bridge of senior lake toward the union where the ceremony would take place. At that point the ivy chain was cut and we were no longer tethered ....tied…bound..fastened..moored..secured but instead untethered and separated, ready and eager enter the “real” world.
Unabashedly symbolic but so true, the ceremony told our story.
This week was particularly devastating for dear friend whose precious mother passed away just weeks after her father. As I tried to find just the right words to tell her how sorry I was for her loss…. all I could think to tell her was how I felt after the loss of both of my parents, my brother and my two sisters. I felt untethered……not moored, not fastened, not secured.
At this point many would be quick to remind me that faith should be sufficient.
I beg to differ.
If you are a believer (and yes, I am) you don’t have to deny your emotional reaction to what life brings your way and the loss of family presents a special kind of grief….one that I call untethering…at least it was for me. Just as the ivy chain was cut…. when you lose someone, especially your parents.. the separation is painful and it’s real.
Mother and Daddy
I was the surprise baby. The “unplanned” pregnancy. My parents had 3 children (JoKay 14, Becky 10 and Mike 8) when I was born. Mother and Daddy were 42. I was loved and spoiled by them all. But now they are all gone. We were the family that all “got along”…ha. Were we perfect? Of course not. Were there disagreements? Certainly. But we were TETHERED to one another. We celebrated holidays together, we mourned together. We all went to the same elementary and high school. We all lived within a few miles of one another with the exception of Mike who tended to fly in and out… but always coming back home. We shared every memory of growing up. We knew each other backward, forward, inside and out…….and cherished every memory. We told story after story and laughed and cried together with each one.
Recently I was at the salon (I usually say beauty shop), getting my nails done, when two former students (they are adults now..remember I taught for 38 years so it’s impossible to not come in contact with a former student wherever I go)… when one of them complimented me on my blog. I laughed and told her it was cheaper than a psychiatrist, which is my usual response and painfully accurate. Another nail tech was giving a pedicure and asked me what I wrote about….. I took a moment and answered that I wrote mostly about what I love…..My family, my church, my faith, my friends, my profession and recently my health.
The sweet lady getting the pedi (an older than me church friend) was listening and our conversation began. Her face lit up as she shared that during COVID, when she was so afraid to leave her home, she began writing a family history for her sons and for family who lived far away so they would know how they were connected and “who was who”…. She then made copies for all of them to keep. She included stories about her youth and her parents so that they would know about her… It was a precious conversation with a lovely woman… who by the way is experiencing tremendous health challenges… but whose eyes sparkled as she shared many of her memories with me…
She wanted family…She needed the connection to happen and be remembered…Don’t we all? Simon and Garfunkel said it this way in the Bookends theme;
Time it was
And what a time it was
It was a time of innocence
A time of confidences
Long ago, it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you
A million memories that only I remember.
- Mike gave me my first albums.. Simon and Garfunkel and The Monkees. I was in the second grade and mother gave me a baby doll.
- All the men smoked on the porch of the church between Sunday School and Worship.. No problem.
- Grandpa shot a deer out of season and Daddy was dressing the deer in the basement when our friend the game warden visited…mother was terrified our friend would hear the dogs barking and know something was up. He didn’t. Or did he?
- Daddy was a scout in the war and crawled on his belly to snuff out the nazis
- JoKay’s boyfriend was a skeet shooter and would win stuffed animals at every carnival and give them to me. I had around 50.
- Mother planned a church service when JFK was assassinated and Becky sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” as everyone cried.
- Daddy was sheriff and our pastor was Bro. Outlaw
- Somebody left the screen door open at church and my dog walked the aisle
And a million more. A million.
So….. I guess the moral of the story is to enjoy being tethered to those who know your story and share your memories before you leave. Write them down if possible. Bore your children with stories and don’t worry if you’ve told them before…they’ll remember them better, ha.
And if your loss leaves you untethered to your past…well then, make darn sure you are tethered to the present with those you love. If it’s not family….it’s fine, make them family. Take time to share and let them know who you really are.
I don’t know if you are aware but we’re all going to die. Sorry to bring that up. But time is of the essence. Get busy. Share your yesterdays but experience today with your people. If you don’t have people… well find a good church and jump in with both feet. Bond with your co worker…. heck, my sweet Cathy and Nita take care of my nails my feet and my hair and they know everything! I talk their ears off during every visit!
Oh how I pray you are bound, secured, fastened, moored….. to your faith for sure, but also to those around you. Those you love and to those who love you…and all of those in between.