On Endings and Beginnings

If one has the good fortune to live in a climate which has four distinct seasons, each year one will physically experience the rhythm of endings and beginnings. During one’s school years, the annual rhythm of work during fall, winter and spring, and play during summer, will make its own marks. As one grows into adulthood, marries and becomes a parent, new rhythms of ending and beginning will weave different tapestries in to one’s life.

As one ages (though age is not a prerequisite), one may well experience divorce and the end of friendships, or debilitating or terminal illness. All of us will experience the death of loved ones and friends. And all of us will experience death ourselves.

Managing well each ending and beginning is the preparation we all make for that final passage from this life in to the next.

Few of us think too deeply about seasonal changes. We may move clothing from storage to our primary closest, or rearrange the positions of sleeve lengths and fabrics. But this is a good place to begin, to physically feel the changes in temperature, the change (depending on one’s latitude) in the angle of the sun’s trajectory through the sky, the length of daylight hours. These creational changes make for changes in our bodies. It is helpful to notice them.

While a parent may no longer be in school, if they have school-aged children, they will still experience the rhythm of the school year, and the movement of the child in to adolescence and in to adulthood. There are many things to celebrate, and some things to grieve in these transitions. It is helpful to do both. But helpful in particular to learn the grief of leaving things behind. Then one may receive the new things to come.

Too many of us adults have gone through divorce. Some may have experienced the end of marriage through abandonment, addiction, abuse or adultery. Some may have come to the irreversible accumulation of mutual negligence and resentment. It is said that the stress of divorce is even stronger than that of the death of a spouse. It is helpful, then, to manage the ending of a marriage well. Whether or not another marriage comes, one must first grieve the ending for a new beginning.

Sadly, there are also endings of the relationships of parents and children. Whether due to divorce and alienation, or through other estrangements from cult-like social and political ideologies, there may come a time in which the love and connection of a parent with a child is severed by third parties. This is incredibly painful and difficult for both parent and child. But for the parent, in particular, if they can manage this ending well, it can make possible a new beginning in the future.

There are other relationship endings. Dating relationships end. Friendships end. Sometimes it is mutual. Sometimes it is unilateral. It may be due to a slow withering of the vine. It may be sudden and unexpected. It may be that one friend ceases to communicate. It may be that both friends wake up weeks or months or years later and realize the friendship has died. One would do well to manage such endings with grace and patience and appropriate grief. Only in this letting go can make space for something new to grow. Not, perhaps the relationship lost, but for new ones.

In the end, friends, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and parents will all one day die. We ourselves may precede them. All of these other endings and beginnings, if managed well, will help prepare us for our own death. If we have learned to let go of the important things in this life–which are always and only the relationships in which we give, receive and practice love–we will have already prepared ourselves to let go of the last tenuous holds on this mortal life. We will not hold on to this life, no matter how hard we try. Letting go is our only option. Through practice in this life, we will have learned to do it well.

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