I love Thanksgiving.
It comes at a time of year when we’re welcoming a change of seasons (I’m in Texas, so we’re grateful the temperature lowers to the mid-60s for a day, maybe longer). It’s refreshing.There is a slowing down of normal activity and an opportunity for reflection. A time to be thankful.
Even when it was my turn to work during Thanksgiving, the mood and pace seemed kinder, less harried. Maybe you’ve had that experience too.
In this article…
I’ll share a message that inspires me from Elder Joseph Brackett’s popular tune, Simple Gifts. From my personal history, I’ll highlight one powerful life event which has ultimately helped me to be present with others during difficult, stressful and emotional times.
I’m grateful for my life experiences, the good, bad and ugly. That sounds strange, even to me as I write, yet, the promise that was shared with me from mentors who have gone before me is true… someday, these experiences will serve others.
Till by turning, turning we come round right…
The lyrics and music of Brackett’s Simple Gifts, elegantly invites a perspective that belies wisdom and a deep appreciation of where we’ve been and where we are now. Then, there’s the okay-ness of continuing to grow and integrate new learnings as a person through life… Till by turning, turning we come round right.
Here are the lyrics and melody to his song …
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend, we will not be asham’d,
To turn, turn, will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.
The message is truly a gift of appreciation for the journey we are taking in life.
And while it’s a healthy idea to look forward to possibilities, there’s learning that is uniquely ours for the taking by turning and looking again at where we’ve been. To me, it seems like there are layers of learning which become available after being away for a time. That’s perspective.
The best example I have is moving from my home state of Kansas to Texas in May,1985. I was single at the time and left a professional position, family and friends for a year-long post-graduate fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. I was ready to launch a new direction in my career and this fellowship promised to accelerate my success.
It was exciting and became excruciatingly painful.
You see, at approximately the same time I received confirmation that I had been chosen for the fellowship, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. We were devastated. My world filled with grief. The nagging disbelief and profound sadness was numbing. And later the anger, followed by despair, overcame me like a tsunami which I had never imagined could happen.
Somehow, we managed… the sun kept coming up day after day.
My parents actually helped me drive to Houston and move into an efficiency apartment near the Texas Medical Center. My mother never complained although I sensed she was uncomfortable… sitting next to me in the passenger side of the car as I drove through Oklahoma and then Dallas, seeing Houston’s skyline coming closer and closer.
This isn’t a rehearsal, Mary.
I immersed myself in an incredible learning experience with skilled, knowledgeable, experienced professionals who mentored and developed my strengths as a mental health professional. I loved the big city and medical center community of people from all over the world seeking solutions to big problems, easing pain and suffering.
As a part of the fellowship training (for becoming a psychodynamic therapist), I agreed to weekly therapy sessions with Marsha Malev, a master’s level therapist in private practice. I’ll always be grateful for her wise counsel.
On one occasion during a time when I was avoiding the difficult prognostic information about my mother’s cancer, she gently confronted my inaction by saying, this isn’t a rehearsal, Mary. It was helpful because I snapped to the fact that my time with my mother could be shorter than longer and I needed to act.
Life will go on… and you will need to go on with your life.
Marsha’s words helped again when I was trying to decide whether to return to Kansas and be near my mother or stay in Houston and pursue a promising career as well as a new, romantic relationship. She simply stated the obvious, that life will go on… that I will need to go on with my life, regardless of my mother’s condition. It was so hard to consider my needs. It seemed selfish and wrong. Another layer of awareness that my mother was going to die and I would go on living was like being startled awake from a deep sleep.
After the year long commitment ended, I decided to accept a position in Houston and didn’t return home to the surprise of my family and colleagues. I continued to travel between Houston and Wichita as often as I could to spend time with mom and dad.
I love you more than you’ll ever know…
This time, mom joined dad in the car as we all drove to the Wichita airport so I could return to Houston. It had been a great visit. Ready to walk towards the entry of the airport with my carry-on luggage over my shoulder, I turned to my mother who was seated in the front passenger side of the car to kiss her goodbye. As we hugged, she softly spoke in my ear, I love you more than you’ll ever know.
Her words go with me. They are with me now.
It was a beautiful early morning in September,1988. I had arrived from Houston the night before. I knew mom was taking dilaudid, a very powerful narcotic pain reliever for over two weeks. I had just returned from a morning walk around my parent’s neighborhood. I relished the Kansas fall coolness.
My dad brought mom into the family room and made her as comfortable as possible. She was semi-alert. Dad had been talking with the Hospice nurse who had prepared him a while ago on gentle ways to be with someone who is dying.
I held her hand, speaking tenderly, softly kissing her cheek. Mom, I love you so much.
Perhaps 10 minutes later, I watched my mother take her last breath while my dad held her lovingly, it’s okay for you to let go now…
I know my mother would agree with the following message by Merritt Malloy, author of Epitaph…
And when you need me, put your arms around anyone.
And give them what you need to give me.
Love doesn’t die, people do. So, when all that’s left of me is love,
Give me away.
I’m so thankful to have my mother’s love which is a joy to share.
She’s my strength. She showed me how to connect with others… her love is never-ending.
The takeaway is…
The journey of life is uniquely ours. It’s a journey that deserves time for reflection…to understand how we got to be where we are today.
Indeed, by reviewing the learnings from a refreshed, new perspective, we are turning, turning til we come round right.