It has been a tough winter, and one of transition. Where have I been for most of it? At the grocery store to feed my rapidly-changing family of teens, or at funerals to bid farewell to yet another beautiful soul called from our world to ‘home.’ Both sides, living and death with me firmly in the middle. No wonder I have the flu.
In the past week, two ladies have passed which have for me left a gaping ache in my life. I didn’t know them well, but in their presence, I felt they knew me, or at least wanted to. Beautiful, both of them, in every sense of the word. I met them in church, Bernice quiet and calm at her husband’s side, Muriel enthusiastic and active in any church event going. Vibrant in their own ways, always welcoming, always authentic, always time to ask about the children or my writing or how things were going. These were the qualities I admired: trust in faith, strength in self, optimism, generosity, smarts with just the right touch of sass. Watching them in action, thinking of their life experiences, I felt childlike in comparison. What have I done, what have I witnessed, compared to the challenges and bravery in which they lived and evolved? In their presence, though, I felt we could chat about anything and everything, solving the deep mysteries of life then sharing a few laughs over the antics of raising children or the insanity of politics. There was nothing about age, about circumstance, about education or experience. We were all simply women, united in faith, conviction and the greatness God made us to be.
Now, in their absence, I feel again like the woeful child. Who can step in to roles so dynamic as theirs, fill a space as brilliantly as their essence?
I know the answer, and I don’t like it.
Growing up, I was always the youngest – in my class, among my friends, with my cousins – and that became a great place to hide. We are taught to look out for the younger ones, expect less, help them more. As an adult, I still tended to have older friends and hang in circles, like church, where at age 50 I am still usually the youngest in the room. My hiding place is shrinking, however. I am transitioning from respecting my elders to being an elder and with every soul called home, I am inched a bit closer to the tipping point.
Despite what my kids say, I’m not old enough to step up and step in. I can’t lead like the elders I know and respect. I don’t have the experiences, the knowledge, the stories. I can’t speak of wars and jalopies and milk in bottles and lunch in tin pails. My historical reach consists of Pierre Trudeau and bell bottom Levis and telephones you had to dial. How do I inspire a generation with that?
Time marches on and I will be marched with it. I can ignore it, allow the child in me to defy reality and slowly fade away as a flame strangled for air. Or, I can honour the memory of those who inspire me – and they will continue to as long as I remember them – and step forward into the transition. Trust, welcome, gratitude, joy, confidence … those are the words that come to mind when I think of these great ladies and these are things that I can be, if I allow it. They will help if I ask. That’s just who they are.
Allow the ache left by their passing, allow the scenery to adjust, allow for new to grow. Getting older, but maybe never completely growing up.