The new year began in two ways : one with the ball drop and celebration and champagne, and the other in the box of belongings and memory of a morning one year ago when her breath slipped away and life as I knew it was over.
The symbolism isn’t lost on me – this beginning and ending so close together, this cycle of saying goodbye and starting anew. Life and death and life.
On my morning commute I called my grandmother, just like I have each weekday morning since last January. We talked about all the everyday things – the chicken casserole she had made for dinner the night before, an update on how my aunt is feeling since her surgery in July, news from far flung family, a funny memory or two, and then, mom. We don’t talk about it every day, but it’s always there. When we do say it out loud, it’s a gift. Time slows down for me in that moment – I know it took a lot for her to say it, this precious, painful, oft unspoken piece of her life story.
She is the mother of my mother, I am the daughter of her daughter. She is a mother to me and I am a daughter to her in a strange, tight, eternal bond that both of us cling to with ineffable gratitude.
Just before we hung up and went about our days she said something, and I can’t forget it.
“It’s like… we’ve come full circle to another year, and we’ve survived all these firsts and we’re tired. But the circle doesn’t end, it starts over again. I just can’t believe it. It’s hard… but it’s good, you know.”
I got a tattoo on the anniversary of mom’s death, the words of our favorite hymn scrawled like a bracelet around my arm, a circle of sorts. A reminder as I run my finger along the cracked skin of this scar as it heals :
Great is Thy Faithfulness. I am changed. Great is Thy Faithfulness.
I have to tell my story this year, in more ways than one, and with more words than the sum of all those I have poured out before. Some of my words will land in ink and paper, some in different corners of the internet, some on the cutting room floor.
Today, all of it feels fragmented and unfinished. I hesitate to plunge back into the memories again, to the death and the hurt and the pain. And I hesitate in this beginning of a new – another – year. I hesitate to watch the calendar and the seasons turn, toward every anniversary of the whole experience.
Maybe it’s because I worry sometimes that this is the only story I have to tell – sadness and loss. Grief. Is that all there is for me?
But I see in the circle that every end is its own beginning, and that’s His faithfulness in this story.
I can plunge into the depths, knowing that life will come from it. From telling my story comes life for someone else’s story. Grace abounds. The cup overflows. I find blessing in that. Great is Thy Faithfulness.
It is a surprise to me, even now, that I can say that of grief and mean it.