Thursday, December 21, 2017

In Good Company

By Cheryl Oreglia

This life may very well be a miraculous adventure but I’ve come to believe the people we encounter along the way are more reflective as to the purpose and intent of our journey than maybe the questions we ask ourselves. As I move deeper into Advent, a time of waiting and preparation, dare I consider my own incarnation? 

What has impregnated me this year?

The word impregnate has several meanings, but the one I refer to here has to do with infusing, soaking, steeping, saturating, and this year I've been impregnated with a new perspective. 

The world may be a spacious place but I happen to live in the same neighborhood I grew up in. I'm unapologetic about my homebodiness because it nourishes me in a mysterious and profound way. Don't get me wrong, even though I crave the familiar, I do venture out on occasion. It's called living and people seem to like it.

I spent the first half of the year in the presence of my Mom who was fighting a losing battle with cancer and sadly succumbed to her illness in June. I learned a lot about myself as I cared for Mom. The length of my patience expanded, the well of my empathy deepened, and the depth of my love increased a hundred-fold.

As my Mom's life narrowed, my daughter's life expanded, and we were confounded by the news she was expecting twins. It was a high risk pregnancy, two identical fetus' sharing one placenta, with precarious connections. I desperately wanted to tend and feed both Mom and child as they journeyed towards the unknown. The babies became a focal point for Mom, something to hold out for, come hell or high water she was going to hold those babies. 

I remember a most powerful moment just days before she passed. She had been unconscious for about twenty-four hours when my daughter dropped by with the twins. I placed those tiny newborns right next to Mom, and there we sat on the foldout bed in the living room, four generations of women. It was a notable moment.

"Mom the babies are here to see you," I spoke as if she could hear me.

I about fainted when she opened her eyes as if waking from a short nap, smiled, and reached for me with her hand. We enjoyed a moment of clarity, love, contact. The joy radiating off her face was incredible as she caressed those babies with her eyes. It was my modern day miracle and a most precious gift. I still find it odd to be in this world without my mother. An orphan, from Greek, meaning bereaved. 

Every year I toy with the idea of retirement but especially this year as my perspective on time has radically changed. The aging thing sucks but I can imagine spending my days blissfully writing in a newly erected writer's cottage in the backyard (work with me people), finding a publisher, and then my debut novel lands on the best sellers list. A girl can dream but then again that would eliminate some of the people who inspire me most.

I teach high school and this semester I walked into a room full of focused, relevant, conscientious students who elevated me in a way I couldn't have achieved through efforts of my own. They took our discussions to a whole new level, demanded critical thinking on subjects from heaven to hell (I teach religious studies), and clarity around complicated issues like forgiveness, grace, and free-will. In moments of great vulnerability these students gave witness to each other. It's rare indeed to find yourself in the midst of such undiluted grace.

Speaking of grace one of my fondest memories was a recent dinner party with a small group of friends. We're really a tribe of sorts, four couples, eleven children, and now six grand-babies to adore. We've been friends for many years and used to live within a few miles of each other. It was common to have an impromptu dinner party just about every other weekend when our kids where young. We didn't realize what a gift that period of time was in our lives until it ebbed and flowed away. Now we are separated by not only distance but obligations. We manage to come together at least a half a dozen times a year, these gatherings are greatly anticipated, and deeply savored.

I remember pulling up to the beach house loaded down with overnight bags, wine, groceries, and presents my anticipation was palatable. It is the one place where I will be greeted warmly, cherished, welcomed, accepted, and celebrated. This is what we do for each other and I am exorbitantly grateful for this group of friends. They have given me the courage to step out of my comfort zone, publish a blog, travel, and explore this life in a way that I would not be able to do on my own. It has something to do with belonging?

Which reminds me of my sister, the one who knows not only my heart, but the very fiber of my existence. She is overly caring and kind, my life would be drudgery without her, and as luck would have it we live seven miles from each other. During a recent phone call we were trying to think of how to honor the memory of Mom at Christmas?

I truly believe a conscientious deed is better than acting as though no one is missing. People must be given the opportunity to hurt out loud says LadyBird Johnson. Sometimes I feel the hole is so deep there no bottom. We can push away a lot of things in this life but grief is not one of them. 

So we've been steeping in her memories, soaking in her wisdom, infused with her grace. The mystery of life and death are worth musing, "but perhaps the secret of living well is not in having all the answers, but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company," says Rachel Naomi Remen.

Could the present moment be pregnant with possibilities we can not imagine? Give it a little birth in the comments?

If you enjoyed this blog you might enjoy another at Living in the Gap, drop in anytime. 


Brenda St John Brown said...

Such a lovely post, Cheryl. My dad passed away about 18 months ago and Saturday would have been his 80th birthday. I've been looking through old photos and recalling some of my favorite memories with him, and I so wish he was here to see my son becoming a young man. They have a similar sense of humor and I think my dad would especially have loved to see the world of possibilities his grandson will explore.

Wishing you comfort and light in your first Christmas without your mom.

Cheryl Oreglia said...

Thank you Brenda for your kindness. My Mom was also 80 when she passed. I totally understand the longing to have our parents witness the joy of our children and grandchildren. I knew my parents wouldn’t live forever but I’m greedy and wanted more time! Thanks for reading. Blessings on your Christmas Brenda and may we both be warmed by our precious memories.

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

I got teary reading this. Truly lovely. I'm missing my grandma right now.

Cheryl Oreglia said...

Thank you Kimberly, I love hearing you miss Grandma, because I am hopeful my grandchildren will love me like you have loved yours. ❤️

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