I have been spending more time in my childhood city recently, visiting my mom as she transitions into assisted living. Mother’s Day was spent with her and my two adult children, the three of us traveling on a road trip to see the woman who my children affectionately call grammsie. When I am there, I usually move between mom and siblings and mom and childhood friends, visiting and spreading my time with those all those I love. Right now I want to spend all of my time with mom.
Mom links me to my beginnings. She gave me my first bridge into the world. And we are at a transition time in her life, when viewing the end becomes inevitable and unbearable. Three months ago, after her fall, I sat alone, crying, not knowing how she was doing, if she was alive, 500 miles away and helpless. I had never thought of life without mom and for the first time that thought formed and I was terrified. I am not ready to lose her. I don’t want her to travel that final bridge into the unknown. I don’t want her to travel that final bridge that cuts off hugs and conversation. I am not ready to lose her.
The three of us set out on our pilgrimage to see mom. In our travels from north to south we take a detour to the home of my growing up. Upon seeing the house, memories rush in. I remember the life of seven, living in a house too small to hold both my family and our varied pets. I remember an old oak tree that sheltered our house and offered me a haven of space when the inside became too crowded and chaotic for me. I rested with my back on the trunk of that tree. We played ring-around- the rosy around that tree. She was base for evening games of capture the flag. I kissed my first boyfriend under that tree. I read many a book under that tree. That tree providing shelter and stability. She was a place where I could laugh and I could cry freely. Her roots ran deep and rooted me with her. And she reached to the sky and showed me a path upward.
The house still stands but the tree is a stump now, cut down when my oldest was a newborn. On another pilgrimage to visit my mom, my daughter, then three, and I went to say goodbye to that old house as my mom moved to her post family home. As we said our last goodbyes to a house filled with memories, my toddler daughter ran to the oak tree stump and stood on her. Mom, she called excitedly, a bridge. A bridge for us to walk over. A bridge to link us from here to there.
My children are at the brink of adulthood. They are traveling across the bridge between childhood and adulthood. Endings and beginnings…filled with excitement, fear and anticipation. I imagine my son finishing college and traveling to new places, possibly settling in one with an oak tree of his own. I imagine my daughter soon linking a child to her beginnings. As mom was for me and as I am the link for both my son and my daughter, remembering them when their skin was fresh and their future only offered hope. One day they may be saying the same words I am now saying about my mom…I am not ready to lose you.
Yet, like I now am learning and live with my mom, they too will also know, we only have this moment of hugs and conversation. This moment--each moment--is a bridge from a beginning to an end. When I live this moment with fullness, my bridge becomes one of gratitude. Gratitude links me from here to there. It links us and brings us to together as beginnings come and endings go. Gratitude continues.