Thursday, April 25, 2013
The other day I sat down at a table, spread out my papers, and prepared to make a cell phone call. And then it came upon me, quicker than a speeding freight train, more surprising than a bolt of thunder in the bright sunshine—a stab of longing for the past. I had not seen it coming, even though I was at Hope House, where I go now on Tuesdays, to run our final hope and strengths groups for people with chronic pain. In need of a quiet space for calling, I had ventured into the office that was mine for so long, sat down at the table where I worked through the hopes and fears of thousands of people. Even though that office is no longer mine, I did it without expecting it to hurt. I thought I was over that. I wasn’t over that. I believe that in future I will look upon the winter of 2012-2013 as a winter of losses. It was the winter when my job as a hope cousnellor came to an end, the winter when I spent a lot of time visiting Mum Edey in hospital. It was the winter in which I put on the last pair of soft woolen slippers my mother-in-law made for me. In the past 35 years she had made dozens of pairs, a perfect fit, the ultimate pattern to thrill my feet. I had worn them every day, worn holes in their heels, holes in their toes, and then surrendered them at the point when there was more hole than slipper, surrendered them in favour of a fresh new pair. I still had one slightly-worn pair left when it became clear that Mum Edey would not likely be well enough to knit another. Small holes were showing on the left foot by the time she breathed one last gentle breath and skipped into a forever quiet. “Should I keep this one last pair?” I wondered. But Mum was never one to keep things, and neither am I. The best tribute was declared in the wearing. The other day I held up the remains of two tattered slippers. The bare floor came through to my foot whenever I wore them. “I’ll send them on their way now,” I said to myself. And then, as I tossed them into the garbage, it came upon me, quicker than a speeding freight train, more surprising than a bolt of thunder in the bright sunshine—a stab of longing for the past. I thought I was ready to let them go. I wasn’t ready. I picked up the slippers and put them back on the slipper shelf, just as I had picked up the chronic pain groups for one last wonderful go at intensive hope work. And thus it seems to me that if the winter of 2012-2013 will be remembered as a winter of losses, then the spring and summer of 2013 might later be recalled as the period of trial, practice and preparation for the difficult task of letting go of beloved things and people.