Tuesday, September 22, 2020

on the 29th-to-last day of my 30s....

 ...I am once again thinking about how little we know about each other.

Over the past few years I have conducted a lot of funerals. And after at least half of those meetings with families, I have marvelled at how much people don't know about their loved ones. I'm something of a broken record about asking my friends to write down things about their lives, or to talk to their kids about their pre-parenting experiences. Because so much of what we know about our parents is really centred around ourselves rather than being about them, and too often the person's identity and personality ends up feeling pretty one-dimensional when we try to talk about them. 

What sort of things did they enjoy as a child? How did they get into (or out of!) trouble? What skills did they pick up or abandon? How did they meet the person they married? What did that relationship look like before children? What hobbies have endured, or were only for a season? What accomplishments have been forgotten along the way? What adventures did they take, meals did they love, places did they visit? How did they meet friends, and what kept those enduring friendships alive over the decades? How did they feel about things that happened in the world? Where were they at pivotal moments in history? What were the pivotal moments in their own lives (sometimes these are much smaller than a marriage or kids!)? And once children are grown and out of the house, what sorts of things filled their days? What did they enjoy doing for themselves, or for their community, not just for their kids? What kinds of things did they think about, pray about, wonder about that didn't have anything to do with their kids or homemaking or job?

So I suppose the lesson from this end of the decade is that it's important to share our lives with each other. Every time I make a "wine and the word" video I begin by sharing high and low points of the day, and I say something about how important it is that we share even these mundane things, because they are what make up a life. Living this life together in community, deepening our relationships through regular sharing of ourselves, matters. This is what it means to be community, to be in relationship: to know each other beyond just the small talk, and beyond just the most visible aspect of our days.

In what is probably not a coincidence, this is the poem I flipped to this morning as I was revisiting Nadine Aisha Jassat's debut collection "Let Me Tell You This":


He told me not to heed the Old Wives' Tales,
superstition and elaboration
bound in proverb and fable.

At home, by the kitchen table,
I watched my mother's hands spin the yarn
of meals and housework,
of duty and obligation.

I long to hear the tales in you.
To know that self beyond dinner time and bedtime,
to know the time of the tick of your heart,
which echoes in mine.

I wish I could press my ear to you like a shell,
to hear the ocean of you,
to know the roar that is yours.

What if it gets washed away too quickly?
And I live my life without your tales -- 
Searching, in the empty space by the kitchen table,
in the silence, for the words which were my mother.


  1. Holy Moses. I want to pour a bottle of pink bubbly and talk about this for hours. I started reading _The Goldfinch_ and may have read your review before I started. It has me thinking about you so much as it describes loss so freaking well. It's always with us, especially as we approach these big milestones. Love to you friend.

    1. love you too! And I'm so glad you are reading the Goldfinch. I love that book so freaking much. I can't wait for the day we can pour all the wine and talk about all the things again.