Remembering Change

All this month of March I have been reflecting on change; the wonder and mystery of it, and also how it can reveal our vulnerabilities.    

Today, the sun is shining, the air is warm, my window, closed tight against the cold of winter, is open. Outside the ice on the surface of the pond is retreating.  And yet, as I sit down to reflect on what is a current for me in this moment, I am reminded of those people in my life who are no longer here.  The loss and vacuum that creates.

Lying on a cold steel table.  The body stiff, rigid – no life. Your features still and your face changed.  No breath here, you had gone.  Whatever essence we call life had left.  There was no chance to meet here in the basement of the hospital – this unimaginative room of four walls. A sheet draped over your body; a tag on your big toe, identifying who you were.  But you, this essential being, was gone.  And yet, as I stood beside your body, words arose, feelings surfaced, memories appeared.  I reached out to touch you, and to wish you peace and comfort. 

I wrote those lines many years ago, after the death of my mother.  I wonder how many of us, have lost a parent(s), loved ones in this past year.  

The process of remembering is not static, it changes over time.  Memories and their stories can act as reminders, as prompts – beckoning us, pointing toward deeper reflections, as we acknowledge the currents from our past, and their arising in the present moment.

Sometimes, this is not easy.  For many of us, relationships with those near to us can be complicated. For those memories and the trauma that have caused deep wounds, seeking professional help and the support of others is so very important.

Remembering is a call to clear a space.  To make room for the memories, the stories, to watch them come and go.  Some reminiscences will be happy and joyful, others less so.  Remembering is a call to your deepest self.  To step into your heartbreak, your joys, and into your longings.  Ultimately, it is a call to the place in your heart where you are a loving friend to yourself. 

There are many ways we can start this process, as we take steps into a loving presence that provides an environment of support. It means finding the time to slow down, to be patient, so that you can explore all that you are, trusting in yourself so that the memories and stories arrive safely.    

What is helpful is to take time to be with yourself and to be in compassionate situations that speak to you – in nature, in parks, with friends you trust, in therapy, in writing, in painting, in reading, in walking, in hiking, in singing, in dancing, in meditation. 

Mary Oliver in her poem reminds us to go easy and to remember how precious we are, as is the world around us.

 When I am among the trees 
 Mary Oliver
 When I am among the trees,
 especially the willows and the honey locust,
 equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
 they give off such hints of gladness.
 I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
 I am so distant from the hope of myself,
 in which I have goodness, and discernment,
 and never hurry through the world
 but walk slowly, and bow often.
 Around me the trees stir in their leaves
 and call out, “Stay awhile.”
 The light flows from their branches.
 And they call again, “It's simple,” they say,
 “and you too have come
 into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
 with light, and to shine.”