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From loss to love

in Mum's the Word by

“When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky”  — Buddha

Baby fingers, baby toes. Smiles and giggles and morning laughs. Blowing kisses and clapping hands. The sweet smell of baby skin and the lovely rustle of growing hair. Morning nestles and long gazes from my baby in between drunken milk smiles.

So many amazing, cherished memories in such a short span of time. The new mother can relate — there are moments of such happiness that one feels their heart might actually burst from joy. How is it possible to experience such joy? To feel it so entirely? And how can it possibly last?

This past week I was reminded just how incredibly precious, delicate, and sometimes brief these moments can be. Funerals do that to a person — the brevity of life, the unfairness of death. When it happens, we often wonder: how can we go on?

A journey to a new place and a new life

People often ask me: “What brought you to Newfoundland?” After nearly 11 years living in this rough-terrained, history-laden province, I still get asked the question. My typical answer is: “The sea. A change. And then I fell in love with this place.”

But if I answer honestly, it was an escape. An escape from the sorrow that encompassed me, the uncertainty that I felt, the lack of direction and utter frustration I felt with life. At 22 years old, my mother died swiftly and suddenly. The loss of a parent is a part of life, but it is something that we are trained to believe will happen when our own lives are full and ready and complete. When we are grown up, have our own families and our own lives, and our parents are elderly and have lived their own full lives, death will come. But to lose a parent in your youth is something that defines a person. I can recall the moments during the week leading up to my mother’s death with such fervour and vibrancy that it might as well be yesterday. And in those days and weeks, and for years after, I wondered how I might ever be happy again, the way I had been happy before.

This past week I attended a funeral — someone loved by many, and mourned by so many. And during the remembrances all of us were reminded that life changes. It might sound cliche, but I was reminded that death accompanies life. It is so in all aspects of the world. Sadness accompanies happiness. We plant seeds, we grow, we harvest. It is the cycle of life. Life changes, and just as there is incredible joy there is incredible sadness. And there will be joy again, though it often may seem impossible.

For many years I thought it might be impossible to be happy again. And then just as swiftly and sneakily as sadness encompassed me, so did joy and happiness. It came so fast that I almost couldn’t believe it, and I know that it’s here for this moment. And who knows what the next moment will bring.

New people, new gifts

Indeed, just as this moment might be gone tomorrow, I am struck by how precious and amazing, and what a gift, each person in our life is. With babies, we are given such gifts, and yet I see my little one growing so fast before my eyes that it sometimes seems unbelievable. I also see this with his sisters; the stark contrast in growth reminds me that these children are not ours. Not really. We might bring them into this world but they are simply ours for borrowed time. Whatever path they choose, each moment they slowly progress further away from us.

We now have a teenager in our home who it seems changed overnight from a wise-beyond-her years young girl into a responsible, beautiful, gifted, and life-loving young woman. She has her own friends, interests, and a life beyond her parents and the adults in her life. She is slowly moving away from us, emotionally and psychologically, and that is how it should be. It is a striking contrast to this little person who is still so dependent entirely on me. And I see that each moment with all three of these children is truly a gift that we are given.

And just as my mother was someone’s child whose life became her own, we were gifted to know her, for however long it was. But that was so long ago. That moment is gone, though it was treasured. Now, my moments are with these children in my home, and the partner who has only recently come into my life. And I see how swiftly they sometimes pass.

So just as I loved to live in the moment before, we continue to enjoy the simple things. That means long mornings making two separate batches of pancakes for everyone’s tastes, laughing and lamenting together as a pot of red currant jam gets forgotten and burnt on the stove, and revelling in the new words of our small one as he makes attempts at saying his sister’s names. Wonderful, precious moments. For however long they last, this is where I shall be.

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