A few days ago, my uncle passed away. So quickly on the heels of my Dad’s death, there is this sense of a larger shift in our family. I had a moment the other day when the thought: “My family is dying,” just drifted through my head. I grabbed it for a second to see what THAT was all about. And it really did give voice to this sense that I have of the end of one set of experiences for us. And then it struck me that there are rarely endings without something else beginning.
My family is dying and simultaneously being born. As the older generation passes, the younger step up and help them through the door, make arrangements, comfort each other. The next generation below them work and play to discover inspirations and aspirations, find love, make commitments. And as the oldest generation passes, the youngest among us learn to walk, pack their lunches, and ask even better questions.
My family is dying and coming to life all the time. And likewise the ways that I exist, learn, love, and define myself die and are brought to life and maturity all the time. The passing of my former selves, of the things and qualities I used to define myself, can be painful, drawn out or shockingly sudden, and full of new challenges and opportunity: opportunities to let go of that which has had its time and is done, opportunities to love and live that which is birthing itself in me, in my life, in this time.
We have rituals to say goodbye to family members. We have traditions welcoming new ones and marking milestones. How can we mark the changes within ourselves that will allow us ease and gratitude in letting go of that which no longer serves? Can we accept and welcome the changes we experience with delight and joy, just like when we watch a toddler take first steps? Can we offer ourselves and others the grace necessary to navigate in a world (or sometimes just a room) full of people who are changing and growing all of the time, just like we are?
We can do all of that the same way we get through these moments of grief and sorrow. We breathe deeply. We do what we feel we must in order to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. We drink in the connection and warmth of the group if it soothes. We find the time for quiet reflection. We surrender to love and all of the joy, beauty, and grief that it can bring.