Photo by Pam Ecrement
As I was transitioning from one new role to another and seeing how God used one to prepare me for moving closer to the next, so many things were happening at the same time that it was impossible to recognize how each and all of them together were also transforming me. New learning, new skills, new challenges, and new opportunities were happening while other parts of my life were also changing in dramatic ways.
If you have been following recent posts, you know I left you in the middle of moving from a good tenured teaching position to the uncertainty of working in a Christian Clinical Counseling private practice. During those same years our children were growing up, involved in various activities, moving from elementary school to high school, and then starting college. My parenting role was shifting with each of their transitions as well as our move to a new church community, and an awareness the parents of my husband and I were both getting older. This last part was not really as clear since our lives were so caught up with everything else the way it so often happens in our middle age season.
That middle season of our lives often means a near collision with our own pathway happening while husband, children, parents, and friends are moving in their own directions as the world around us changes as well with disasters of all types that grab our attention day by day leaving us grappling with all that is occurring.
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Many celebratory things are a part of this season and so it was for us as well. There were graduations for children with friends, grandparents, aunts, and uncles to laud accomplishments. Children moved on to college discovering their own paths. In our case this time would end with college graduation of first one and three years later another and with it the end of them living at home or near us as dreams and new jobs took them to states hundreds of miles away and then brought them back again for deaths of great grandparents and others dear to them and us.
Before we knew it there were weddings on the horizon to plan for and the excitement of these weddings happening on the college campus both had graduated from and were rich with special memories. Yet this time of joy was tinged with losses as well as their first grandparent and our first parent died. A transition in the middle of one transition left us with little time to reflect as my husband and I took on new roles helping our aging parents while we enjoyed adding a daughter and later a son through marriage to our family tree.
Life was happening at such a pace with so many shifts there was no time to reflect or consider changes going on within us personally. Week by week brought new decisions and untrod paths while we grabbed another cup of coffee for a boost of energy hoping things would slowdown and wishing some things were not changing as time was slipping through our fingers.
I sat in the office of my private practice everyday meeting hour after hour with those seeking help with their own transitions and I leaned more heavily on the beliefs and faith that had carried me this far. Only with these foundational companions could I move into new roles where there had been no courses to give me the new skill sets, energy, mental and emotional bandwidth for this jam-packed season. Time to be quiet with the Lord each morning was more than ever the lifeblood of my day beyond something I enjoyed and wanted to do. Journaling in letters to the Lord poured out page after page as I learned to not only share more candidly with Him but listen more carefully for those things I sensed from Him that would sustain me for the day so I could be available for however He wanted to use me. And as the journal was filled, I learned to dip back through the pages and be reminded of God’s faithfulness in the days that flew by.
Within one 12-month period we would experience the college graduation of our oldest child, the death of my husband’s brother, the wedding of our oldest child, the death of our first parent, our 25th anniversary, and the 50th anniversary of my parents. It was also a season where we began to say goodbye to friends and peers as they moved or passed away. Many of you have had years like that or are having one now. When we are younger, we don’t envision life will hand us multiple challenges and changes in the most significant areas of our lives as it does, but would we have understood or even listened if someone had told us that back then?
Joyful moments still happen in the middle of deep losses and sorrow. Life is like that, but we didn’t know that when we were younger.
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We knew the generation we had birthed was growing up and starting their own legacy and that our parents were getting older. We spent more time lingering over a family dinner asking them questions and listening to their stories but never asking them what it was like to be them on the inside as they were aging. My dad had been healthy up through and beyond his retirement at 70 while my mother six years younger dealt with various health issues and with the ever-increasing challenges of my aging younger brother and his mental, emotional, and physical disabilities and often called me for advice. We knew they were aging and yet watched them still travel on road trips to visit our children (their only grandchildren) and explode with joy when our first grandchild (their first great grandchild) was born.
I saw them still looking toward the future of more great grandchildren as my mother gave a handmade crocheted angel ornament to this new hope for the next generation. I did not know then that she planned for more of those blessings or that she had more ornaments tucked in a shoebox on the shelf in her bedroom closet labeled “future great grandchildren.” That would be a surprise I wouldn’t discover until her death.
Losing a parent is something you cannot imagine or prepare for. They have been with you for all of your memory so to consider life without them is unthinkable no matter how old you are when they die or how old they are. My dad at 84 just a few months before we celebrated our grandchild’s first birthday became ill with pneumonia and was gone within five and a half weeks. During those weeks when he was hospitalized, my mother was having health issues and also hospitalized leaving the challenges that brought including taking care of my brother while my husband and I needed to continue to try to work. But even that was not the end of that hard time because three months to the day my mother died at 79. They just missed their 56th anniversary but were able to have celebrated our youngest child’s wedding the autumn before this.
Life doesn’t stop when death comes to one part of our lives. During those months I was invited and felt led to accept a position on our church staff made up of a culture diverse from my own and was just getting into counseling there as well as heading, developing, and supervising new ministries I created. Now I would add handling the estate of my parents and guardianship of my brother. Little wonder my early fifties came and went without much notice, but that would come.
Photo by Pam Ecrement