This is a tough subject to cover in one morning, especially when I have to leave soon to rehearse before the church service, but I'll give it a try.
My dear son came home last night, here for two days. Then he flies to California for Thanksgiving with his very wonderful girlfriend and her family. Our oldest daughter will be in Michigan with yet another terrific significant other who has come into our family circle. So we will have half of our children here for Thanksgiving.
The nice thing is, J and I are very peaceful about it. We would love to have them all home, but our family center is changing, and one can always find positives in change. It is also something special in its own way to have S. here on his own - our only child for two days. It is a treat to see them so happy with someone they love, and to have a new surrogate son or daughter joining our lives. We can resist the new way of things or embrace it, and embracing what is often means letting go of what was. This emptying of the nest is really just an extended exercise of letting go.
The problem is, sometimes I get anxious about letting go too much! I feel like, in my defense against suffering over the pain of letting go, I sometimes become so thoroughly adept at letting go that it is more like giving up. How do you continue to hold on to something that you adore so profoundly, and let it go at the same time? Can be very confusing.
This morning a thought came to me about the release in some forms of letting go. I always set two alarms on my cell phone, 10 minutes apart. I like to do this for a very distinct reason. After the first alarm goes off, I treasure the luxury of allowing myself to let go of everything, entirely, for just another 10 minutes, knowing that the next alarm will rouse me. I release all thought of the responsibilities for the day, or worries, or anything but sinking blissfully back into carefree sleep.
A little letting go can be lovely.
An image of water-skiing came to mind. After a long round of skiing behind a motorboat, one's arms begin to ache, the legs might even start shaking. Sometimes it feels almost like my hands won't be able to uncurl from around the handle of the ski rope (you can tell I'm generally an out of shape wreck when I ski). What heaven it is as you come back around to the dock, to be able to let go of that rope! All the tension leaves your body, and you sink gently down into the welcoming water of the lake. What a relief.
Then the thought carries me further. Is all of life just an extended exercise of hanging on? How often do you hear about people at the end of life, who get to the point where they just give up, they give in. Sometimes we applaud them. It is their time, and they know it. They let go of the rope and sink into the waters of death gracefully. But sometimes people give in and give up prematurely. Becoming adept at letting go isn't always best. Sometimes it is just resignation, depression, a sense of futility.
How do you know?
When my grandmother was dying, years and years ago (she would be 110 today if she were still around!), my father went to Florida to be with her. "Momo" was hanging on and hanging on until her daughter arrived, Dad's sister, my aunt. Then Momo kept hanging on, sick as sick can be, struggling.
I remember what Dad told me about being with Momo at the end. She was a dear, loving woman who never wanted to trouble people, least of all her children. It seemed she didn't want to leave them. At one point he held her hand and said, "Go, Momo. Go."
And she did.
Every time I think about it I still get tears in my eyes.
Perhaps the process of growing up, changing, aging, is all just practice. Practice hanging on, yes, but also practice letting go. The key is to do all of it without ever giving up.
First ice on the pond on this chilly morning. Glorious day.