The Cycle of Life

I have been on a bit of a blog hiatus. I recently joked with a friend that my blog mantra is that any posting will be sporadic and erratic, squeezed in where there is a spare minute and a left over brain cell or two. Over the past several months, I have had fleeting thoughts of post ideas which are quickly consumed by even more fleeting moments of time among the various mother, spouse, and work tasks which must be accomplished first.  Besides, if I had any real talent at writing, I wouldn’t be practicing law, now would I?

Joel’s grandmother, Mary Graham Cook, died this week on the night before the first day of school. Mamaw was 101 years old, about five weeks shy of being 102. Our children, three of her many great-grandchildren, were privileged to know her and spend time with her on a fairly regular basis because she lived nearby with Joel’s parents. Mamaw was quite the talker. And, if you ever wanted to know what was going on with the extended family, she was the source to ask. We lovingly joked that in recent weeks, when she stopped talking, we knew that something was seriously wrong.

Recently, her health declined and we had been gently preparing them that we didn’t know when, but she was, after all, 101 and very few people live into their 100s. So, when “the” call came, we were seated at the supper table. Noah and Sarah Grace burst into immediate tears. Noah asked what did she die of? We told him, she died of oldness. Her body just wore out like a battery that has died. Samuel, in his matter-of-fact and dry way, attempted to comfort them by saying, “I am not going to cry. It’s the cycle of life.” His siblings did not consider that to be comforting.

The kids’ sorrow, including Samuel’s as the impact of the news sank in, was excruciatingly painful to watch. This was the first person close to them who died and for whom death is no longer a distant concept, but a reality including the understanding of their own sorrow plus that of Joel’s, and Papaw’s at losing his mother. I cried with the children, not so much because I missed Mamaw (although I certainly do, but it was a blessed relief for her to go without prolonged suffering), but because I could not put a band-aid on this boo-boo and make it all better.

Against this melancholy backdrop, and the disruption of our best go-to-bed-on-time-to-start-off-the-schoolyear-right- plans, the alarm clock buzzed shockingly early this morning. We managed to get out the door early despite the mandatory first day of school pictures on the front porch with backpacks in tow, all the while with me threatening them to smile or else; don’t all Moms do this to capture the “happy” first day memories in spite of the growing independence of their offspring?? I could see in their sighs the figurative rolling of their eyes, but they are smart enough not to actually roll their eyes in front of me. (Side note here: One day when I was grumbling about some trait or another of my mother’s, Sarah Grace said I shouldn’t speak meanly about my mother. This caused me to explain to her that one day when she grows up she will find me to be irritating or annoying in some aspect and that she would probably express exasperation about me to her children or husband. I think picture day is probably on her future list. Oh, and if you are my mother reading this, you are perfect and wonderful in every way, and I am completely wrong, ungrateful even.)

Today due to them being in 4th and 3rd grade, our drop-off routine was new. In the past four years–kindergarten through 2nd grade —we dropped off at the front door where every morning rain or shine several teachers, the principal, and school safety officer opened car doors, warmly greeted the students and the parents in the cars, ushered the kids safely out, and closed the car doors with a cheery have a good day. But now, we dropped off at the gymnasium side door. The lonely, quiet, do-it-yourself door. Yet, the kids were thrilled with this development! They have been waiting years to climb the drop-off hierarchy and they hopped out proud of their new independence and status as the older kids in school. The slamming car door rang in my ears with a faint “See ya!” tossed over their shoulders in my direction.

And, suddenly behind my sunglasses, the tears welled up. What on earth is wrong with me, I thought? This is 4th grade and 3rd grade, not the first day of kindergarten or the first day of senior year, for heaven’s sake. But, I missed the front drop off and all it signified. I was unprepared for this new stark symbol of their maturity. They don’t need chaperones in the car line, but I still needed it for my heart. As parents, we are happy for them and proud of their increasing maturity. But, mothering is multitudes of joys with a thousand unexpected small cuts to our heart as they mature and leave us. So, as Samuel put it, “I am not going to cry. Its the cycle of life.”

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