… and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Elizabeth Appell
May has always proven to be a challenging month for me. Today is May 5th, the 48th anniversary of my parents’ wedding. It’s also the 4th anniversary of the day my father and I last spoke before he passed the following day. Yesterday, when I realized that 2017 would mark ten years since my mom died, I felt like I’d had the wind knocked out of me. I cannot believe it’s approaching a decade since my sweet mother said goodbye. Also, the month of May represents both of their birthdays, my dad’s final and seemingly interminable journey to rest once again beside mom, and of course, Mother’s Day.
I know and have been reminded many times over the past decade that they found much joy and happiness, spending the last half of their lives together. Dad knew the exact number of days he lived without my mother right up through his final night, and he fondly remembered the 37+ years of his life that he spent with her. They found delight and comfort forging a life together, in spite of struggling with the challenges of beginning life and family over with one another in late middle age.
Less than six years apart, I washed each of their faces and kissed them goodnight for the final time. Mom passed on October 27, 2007, and dad passed on May 6, 2013. To my knowledge, my mom didn’t speak her last two days here. Dad, of course, was giving orders to anyone who would listen, up until his final day. I don’t believe for one minute that it is a coincidence that both of their last words to me were, “I’m proud of you, son.” They knew me better than anyone, and they knew that I would need those words nearly as much as anything else they’d ever given me.
This morning I had the pleasure and good fortune of an early business meeting with a dear friend whom I admire tremendously. She and I got to catch up with each other’s lives, personal plans, and careers and immediately began scheming about the possibilities of the future. I also had the privilege of introducing her to a brilliant colleague of mine at CitySquare. I can’t wait to see what goodness the two of them concoct.
Later, as my work day progressed, I received a text from another good friend, who was on campus at CitySquare to deliver words of encouragement to twenty graduates of our WorkPaths Culinary and Hospitality Training Program. I happened to be across the hall from him when he called, so I was able to spend some time with him, listen to and hear his words of thanks and encouragement to the graduates, and then share some time with him afterward. His life has presented challenges that would cause many to crumble. Instead, it’s pushed him to keep moving to motivate and support others in crisis.
Life can be difficult. But it’s wonderful to have reminders that sometimes a reset is just the prescription we need. I can still hear the echo of my dad’s words saying, “It’s okay to use the eraser on the other end of the pencil to back up and start over.” I have done it myself, multiple times, intentionally, and unintentionally, and so have many of you who I call friends. In many small ways, I think we sell ourselves short if we don’t continuously start anew, refresh, and “clean the slate.”
My good fortune of running into inspiring friends, working with brilliant colleagues, and bearing witness to friends and neighbors all around me, who risk to blossom and grow toward new opportunities, reminded me this morning of Appell’s line of poetry above. It also reminded me to be grateful for the pain my parents had experienced before they took the risks they did. The poem resonated differently today though. As I listened, I heard that it’s okay that I’m a late bloomer (and that I can blame my parents for it.) Jokes aside, it comforted me to remember that pain often precedes beauty. It reminded me that I am in good company.
KM Huber (one of my favorite Nasty Woman Bloggers), interpreted Appell’s poem aptly as,
“Grace is the bud of a rose in late summer risking the security of self to burst forth as a blossom that cannot close again.”
If you’ve read this far, thank you. Thank you for indulging my remembrance of my parents. Thank you for being an inspiration to me. Thank you for being an encouragement to me. Thank you for bearing witness to pain, to beauty, to loss, to growth.