While away on a brief vacation recently, I had the joy of holding my granddaughter for the first time.
There is truly nothing quite like holding the child of your own child. It is an occasion that renders the heart full and the mind scrambled.
Only a few days later, I spent an evening with my uncle. He is the brother of my now deceased father. We told many stories about what the passing years brought us, making sure old memories still lingered. As the evening ended, he handed me a gold pocket watch that belonged to my great-grandfather – and which was given to him on the occasion of his ordination to the priesthood. I felt something akin to pride – though I am not entirely sure that best captures what was a deeply emotional moment for me.
There you have it. In the span of a few days, the cycles of life played out right in front of me. I celebrated the joy of a new life beginning, and remembered lives now past to which I am just as deeply connected. In both holding that precious grandchild and that family artifact (whose actual worth meant little to me, but whose connection to blood and kin meant a lot), I felt pride, joy, connection, gratificaiton.
As a result, I find myself reflecting on how life unfolds in a stirring array of stages and passages. My wife and I have now celebrated 34 years of marriage. We have three children of our own. Last month about 75 members of our clan gathered from our scattered places around the country, representing four distinct generations within the family. What started out as Jack and Judy in 1960 is now a mass of humanity large enough to fill a decent size assembly hall. Every time we gather, we have added family and lost family. The stories that are told are both familiar and new.
We grieve deeply when one of us passes.
We celebrate just as deeply when we hold the tiny child newly brought to this world.
We gather at the bedsides of those whose passing is near as well as in the homes of those whose lives are just unfolding. One floods us with memories, the other with hope. The cycles of life recur with such blinding speed that one day you wake up and realize that your child has moved out and started her own family.
I give God thanks for it all. For the birth and the death, for the joys and the sorrows, for the ups and the downs, for the tomorrows and the yesterdays, for the hopes and the fears, for the tears and the laughter.
Life is a gift, and family a blessing.
Families have always configured themselves in a broad array of choices. However your family comes together, and whoever it is you call your sibling or your parent or your cousin, with whomever you gather to celebrate the passages of time, and whosoever’s passing causes you deep grief – may there be moments of unutterable joy to celebrate. May there be as well a companion for your times of grief.
For the gift of new life emerging and memories of lives long past, we give thanks. For the remarkable journeys that are ours to engage in as we let these blessed days unfold, we give thanks.
May you experience all of this with grace and gratitude on this, your Journey Into the Mystic.