“I never think of the future – it comes soon enough.” -Albert Einstein
It is hard to believe that last night was the first night in 22 years that there were no children at home. It seems like it should have happened sooner, or been more of a celebration or at least notable, but there was really no fanfare at all and if anything- the experience was a little anti-climactic. Most of life has this quality; the events that we expect will bring big life changes happen to us gradually, and often by the time they arrive we realize that it is just another day; not that much unlike the one before.
I remember when each of my kids went through this recognition about their birthday or Christmas. I remember thinking it after my own wedding and the birth of my children. Focusing on a single day, a brief moment distracts us from the real work of being married or the long days of raising a baby to a child. It is in the daily quotidian of life that we often lose sight of time slipping by or that we are never really guaranteed anything- time, health, nor being with the people we love.
I have stepped near enough to the cracks under our feet to know better, but still, like last night, I am sometimes caught off guard realizing that my days of noisy, eye-rolling adolescence that directs much of my life is closer to over than I usually let myself know. My home will become increasingly quieter and it isn’t long away that I will be waiting for them to visit.
Even these assumptions are mostly fiction as we all witnessed the tragedy of unforgiving and unpredictable death yesterday. The future we imagine is at best perhaps, and the most we can hope for, is a guided direction. The stuff of life happens to everyone; things are in constant motion and the only constant is change. Embracing the unpredictable gets easier because even the moments you predicted arrive in ways that surprise.
Like last night when I finally had a night of no responsibility I could have done anything, and instead of the wild experience of release and freedom that I often would attribute to that thought, I missed my kids. I missed the years that I tucked them all into bed and knew where they were for 12 hours a day. I missed the weight of the long days that were at once totally in my control and completely out of control.
Here is the truth of it… all there is that matters is the years of love that you pour into your life and the lucky people who share it with you. But loving also makes you vulnerable to losing the ones we love. Letting go and holding on is the yin and yang of loving people- both equally challenging and essential to the health of our hearts and relationships. Gratitude helps. Treating each and every moment with the reverence that this may be the last one respects the perhaps of tomorrow.