Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)




Tuesday, August 7, 2012

COME WITH ME ON A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY

Are We There Yet, Dad?
Some of my favorite childhood memories are of summer family road trips with my dad and mom. Dad's varied occupations - first as a college campus ministry director, later as a writer, editor, and publisher, and finally as a priest in the Orthodox Church - required him to travel quite a bit.  

Dad brought the whole family along as often as he could. I recall tooling down Route 66, my dad at the wheel, my mom beside him, with my siblings and me crammed in the backseat.  We kids didn't quite understand the nostalgia of that old highway; we just wanted to get to our destination as soon as possible.

Our impatience would lead to a predictable question: "Are we there yet, Dad?" His truthful, yet disappointing answer in the negative would prompt us to take turns needling him every ten minutes or so, "How much longer until we get there?" - to which he'd finally announce with authority, "Okay, kids, it's time to play The Quiet Game!"

A Final Journey
To my regular readers, it might seem as if I've been playing "The Quiet Game" for the past few weeks, but the reason I've been absent from the world of blogging is that I was on another journey with my dad.  Our last one together on this earth.

In June, Dad was told by his doctors that after thirteen years his metastatic melanoma cancer had returned, was already in stage 4, and was untreatable.

My siblings and I immediately flew out to the Midwest to be with my parents.  I think those days in the hospital were some of the most loving, blessed, and bittersweet moments we have ever had together as a family - full of thanksgiving, tears, hugs, and kisses.

I know a question we all wanted to ask was, "How much longer until we get there, Dad?" Just a week later, Dad was moved to a beautiful hospice facility, and on July 1 we accompanied him to the Gates of Heaven, praying and singing hymns at his bedside.  It was a peaceful moment that I'll never forget.

Measuring Time
A couple of years ago, I came across and saved a tender perspective on the subject of loss, which brought me comfort in facing my father's death.  It’s from Wendell Berry’s book, Andy Catlett, Early Travels.

In this affectionate, fictionalized memoir, Andy (as an elderly narrator and the main character) looks back on his boyhood in rural Kentucky, and reflects on all the family and friends who have been part of his life.

The author, in one of his most poignant passages, describes how time is halved, and how the past and future are not only divided, but connected, by the present moment:

Time is always halved...by the eye blink, the synapse, the immeasurable moment of the present. Time is only the past and maybe the future; the present moment, dividing and connecting them, is eternal...We measure time by its deaths, yes, and by its births. For time is told also by life.  As some depart, others come. The hand opened in farewell remains open in welcome...time that is told by death and birth is held and redeemed by love, which is always present.  Time, then, is told by love’s losses, and by the coming of love, and by love continuing in gratitude for what is lost.  It is folded and enfolded and unfolded forever and ever, the love by which the dead are alive and the unborn welcomed into the womb.  The great question for the old and dying, I think, is not if they have loved and been loved enough, but if they have been grateful for love received and given, however much.  No one who has gratitude is the onliest one. Let us pray to be grateful to the last.

While my Dad was in the hospital, I experienced this unique aspect of measuring time not just by death, but by birth, with the present moment dividing and connecting the past and the future.  My daughter, Mary, pregnant with her first child, brought a framed ultrasound picture of her unborn baby to my dad, in order to introduce her grandfather to his first great-grandchild and newest namesake, "Peter".

In grateful silence and awe, I watched as my daughter hugged my dad, and several realizations hit me:  hadn't it been just an "eye blink" ago that my daughter was a baby being introduced to her grandpa?  Now here she was, a grown woman and wife, soon to become a mother, and my first grandchild, still in utero, was present with us as a fourth generation of our family.

On July 1, 2012, my dad passed away amid tearful hugs and goodbyes, and my grandson will soon be born and welcomed with gentle kisses and hellos.  One journey is completed and a new one will begin...

8 comments:

  1. I am so very sorry Wendy, I am sending you my most heartfelt condolences to you and your family.

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    1. Thank you so much, Valerie. I know you understand these seasons and journeys. xxoo

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  2. I love that Berry passage, Wendy! I am praying for all of you, and understand (and experience) the intermingling tears of joyful sorrow, and of pure joy; the missing and the welcoming. I love you.

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    1. Thank you, Trenna. It is a bright sadness for both Peter Ensley's maternal great-grandpas! Looking forward to sharing grandmother-hood with you soon - but not TOO soon! :)

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  3. Aw shucks am, you're making me all choked up!!! You've certainly inherited your dad's talent for writing. Thank you for sharing these thoughts and reflections. I love you!!

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    1. I love you too, dear daughter.
      Love, AM ;)

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  4. Reading this makes me wish all the more that you could have been in Scott Cairn's class with me. You, your father, Mary and the youngest Peter remain in our prayers. Love you all.

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    1. Thank you, Michele, for your kind words and all your prayers.

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