Celebrating the Endings of Things

It’s been awhile since I did a Celebration Friday post, hasn’t it?

(For those of you who might be new here, Celebration Fridays are a tradition with me. They started with this post. You can find the other posts by clicking the Celebrate the Inevitable tag)

I’ve been thinking about endings a lot lately. Loved ones have died. We’re all getting older. In the past year I seem to have developed a trick knee. All of which is cause for celebration, if as I do, you define celebration as taking time to mark an occasion. Not every celebration is a happy one. But I truly believe that all milestones should be acknowledged.

When we’re young, we get excited about the new things we can do, the new life stages we enter, not noticing that each of those means something gets left behind. Eating solid food and sitting at the table will at some point mean the end of nursing in Mum’s arms. The start of school means the end of trackless days at home.

But of course, those endings are exciting and mostly happy because of all the exciting new things they announce – reading and making new friends and trying new foods and on and on.

But then we get older and the Ending/Beginning cycle starts to put more emphasis on the ending bit. Because this maybe was something we were doing for a really long time and we start to realize that there won’t be quite as much time ahead of us.

Hanging up the skates hurts.

I was with my mother the day she realized that her days of climbing stairs were over. It was painful and scary. We were actually climbing the stairs when it happened. I was behind, spotting her and halfway up to seeing what changes we had made in the upstairs of her own house, she realized, “I can’t do this.” I coaxed, encouraged and coached her as best I could, because turning around at that point was not an option. We got upstairs, I took her on a tour and then we made the slow descent for the last time.

After that we had a cup of tea and a cookie. A celebration of an ending.  A sad moment that needed to be marked.

We are, sometimes, so cheery and encouraging, so ‘look on the bright side’ that I wonder if we don’t do a disservice to ourselves by not marking these sad occasions, by not admitting to the sadness in our happy occasions.

A very wise friend of my sister’s left a care package on her porch the day her youngest started Grade 1. It included treats for my sister’s new-found free time. And a box of Kleenex. She made good use of both.

My father-in-law died recently. I miss him. And I realized the other day that with his passing, Alan and I have no one left to be proud of us, in the bust-my-buttons way that only a parent can be proud of you. Productivity has taken a nose-dive. I can’t see the point in achieving much of anything. It’s not that I needed our parents’ approval to do my stuff, but it was so lovely and now it’s over. And we need to mark that.

And once that sad, tea and cookies celebration is done, we can take a deep breath and move forward to all the good things that life still holds for us. But we need that moment, those moments. We need to understand just what we’re leaving behind before we can really appreciate what we’re moving toward. We need to honour where we’ve been.

So often in these losses, we try to cheer ourselves up. I try to cheer myself up. Look for the good, we are exhorted, count your blessings. Don’t be sad because you’ve lost something, be glad because you once had it. And yes that is good advice and yes, appreciation and gratitude are wonderful things. But they make a terrible wallpaper if they’re used to cover up our sadness, our bereftness. You can be grateful for what you no longer have, appreciate what you will never get while mourning those losses. A broken heart is more open to the world and all its possibilities than one that has remained whole. A fully-felt good-bye makes the next hello all the more powerful.

Sometimes, when I want to understand a situation, I find it helps to turn it around, to see it from a slightly different angle. So to fully understand how treating an ending like a fresh new beginning only doesn’t serve, see how it would be if we treated our beginnings like they were only endings. Do we say to the mums of the newly-weaned babies, “Oh, no more nursing. How sad! You’re really going to miss those late-night snuggles!” Or two the new home-owner “Well, there go your weekends! It’s so awful that you can’t afford to eat out any more!”

I hope not. Because it’s mean-spirited and wrong, isn’t it? But that same feeling comes along when we try to force the new beginning before the ending has been truly felt, acknowledged and moved past.

I always appreciate a heart-felt “That sucks” in those difficult moments. It lets me know that my pain is real and understandable. It actually helps me to begin to look for the good in any situation while allowing me to move forward at my own pace.

As I get older and, hopefully, wiser, I try to let my celebrations encompass both the beginning and the ending. I try to let them include tears and hugs and giggles and to remember that they all spring from the same place.

How about you? Any beginning/endings you’d like to mark? What words of encouragement have helped you do that?

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