Feast of losses

How shall the heart be reconciled/ to its feast of losses?
(Stanley Kunitz)

This time of year is undeniably about endings.  This is so even as the world bursts into bloom around me, asserting the fact that no matter what, life will return and triumph.  I am always heavy-hearted in the spring, as the school year closes.  Something deep inside me operates on academic time; this has always been true, even in the interval between my own student life and the time when my childrens’ school calendar delineated my days.  When your bloodstream pulses to the rhythm of school, early June is when things end.  I can feel the ending hovering now, growing closer every day, its presence as tangible to me as the thick pollen in the air.

Some days it is simply too much for me.  On these days the losses, the goodbyes, and the endings overwhelm me, and all I want to do is to sit down and sob.  I was talking to a friend the other day about how I am sad about the end of school, and she looked me in frank astonishment.  “Really?” she asked, genuinely surprised.  “But aren’t you glad for the summer?”  Yes, I said, I was, but saying goodbye to a year makes me genuinely, deeply sorrowful.  It occurred to me in that moment, as it does over and over again, that there are lots of people out there who simply not sentimental.    And it also occurred to me, not for the first time, that I’d often like to be one of them.

I guess I’m just awash in the end of things right now, much more aware of the bitter than the sweet.  I ache for all that I have lost: hours, days, weeks, years of my life, my babies and my toddlers, friends and family who are gone from me, younger, more innocent versions of my own self.  Yes.  I know there are many good things ahead, and that every ending brings a beginning in its wake.  I know this intellectually, but it is of no emotional solace when the endings and goodbyes seem to keep coming so relentlessly.

I fold up clothes that don’t fit the kids anymore, save the special things, hand the rest down. I scroll through old pictures in preparation for my college reunion next weekend.  I am visited in my sleep and in my waking by my grandmothers and by Mr. Valhouli.  All that I’ve lost rises up in front of me, sometimes, and I feel as though I could dive into it like into a wave. The past – those lost days and people – seems so near, and I am both reassured and shaken by its proximity.  I can sense those past experiences in an almost-animate way, and I wonder at how something or someone who is gone can feel so near.

Stop!  I feel like screaming in these fecund, beautiful, swollen-with-life days.  I want to press pause and just sit still for one moment, but I can’t, and time cranks inexorably forward.  As I try to grab onto the minutes of my life I feel them slipping by, so I tell myself all I can do is pay attention and live each one.  Still, like a silk cord that I can’t quite grip, time ripples across my palm, and I weep as I watch it go.  Even in the time it took to write this blog post I watched the sun slip beyond the horizon through my little office window, another day winding to its close.

Driving through Harvard Square this weekend I saw that they had put tents up for graduation.  It reminded me of the deep ache in my gut that the sight of the reunions fences gave me every year in college.  The fences meant the end was in sight.  They delineated the site of each major reunion, but they also closed off another one of our precious years on campus.  The fences always, always made me cry.

The fences and the tents in Harvard Square are just manifestations of the threshold between now and the next thing.  I traverse this boundary every single year, and each time I’m startled, anew, by the pain that crossing entails.  I am aware, all the time, of the losses my heart has sustained, but at this time, in liminal moments like the end of the school year or my birthday, I feel them especially sharply.


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7 Comments

  1. Posted May 24, 2011 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    I’m sorry that this is such a sad time for you. While I certainly share many of your sadnesses about the passage of time, lately I find the kids’ enthusiasm for the “next step” so infectious that it helps a lot. Camp, kindergarten, picking up football equipment last night for the fall… I am so thankful to be here to see them experience those things that I am trying to focus on that. I hope that you will be able to find a way to get through this without so much pain. It’s hard to see those you care about feel this way. xo

  2. guest
    Posted May 24, 2011 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    When the heart grieves
    over what it has lost,
    the spirit rejoices
    over what it has left.

    -Sufi Epigram

  3. Posted May 24, 2011 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    this is such an evocative post about loss on a universal level. I love the end of the school year but feel the sadness you describe in the fall. My year always started with x-country season:)

    thank you for being so honest abput these difficult feelings!

  4. Posted May 24, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Oh Linds, I am aching terribly over the fact that my baby boy is finishing kindergarten! How can that be? My baby boy FINISHED with kindergarten?? Yes, I hear you, it makes me cry! He came home from school the other day with this written “My life is fun. Its just that I dont want it to end. I want everywons life to start agen and agen.” So much about that broke my heart all over his backpack. The fact that he can now write that. That he thinks that and feels that and worries about that…Oh…Well, see you under the tent in a few days! xo

  5. Posted May 24, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    I love that you feel so deeply. And that you notice how you feel–and that you share your sorrow here. Sending hugs to you, my friend. xoxo

  6. Posted May 24, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Normally I feel exactly the same, and yet it always intermingled with an excitement for long days and relaxing evenings spent living outdoors. This year, for the first time, in a long, long time, I actually feel the renewal in my bones and it’s tremendously joyous. And yet, like you I feel the wheels of time turning, I see my boys changing before my very eyes and it hurts. I want my 2 year old to be 2 and precocious forever. I want to protect my soon to be 5 year olds innocence, even as I see small cracks in his youth effervescence.

    I just faced a huge weekend of change, laced with a difficult but important decision. It reminded me how quickly our lives pass, and how quickly our lives change.

    Thinking of you, and wishing your hope amidst the flux of this season.

  7. Posted September 28, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Your unquestionably correct on this piece

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