One of the traits that I inherited from my father is an interest in wonderingabout life. At his core, my Dad was a philosopher. He would talk at the dinner table about current events and what that meant to him, to us, to the world. He wrote several books that attempted to place human lives in the larger context of world events, in his case nuclear war. So, I might suppose that this letter is a throwback not to his Christmas letters but to his habit of wondering about life.
How do we celebrate connection and relationships in our lives? How do we move beyond the pain of loss both physically and emotionally? Both these questions loomed large in my extended family this year. Admittedly we are a large clan of 58+people from ages 1 year to 79 years of age representing three generations of living thru life’s tumults, its joys, its irritations, its beginnings and its endings. I have been thinking about these questions since August when our youngest family member died at six weeks of age. That death brought family from far away and friends and neighbors from nearby to hold the young couple as they doubled over in their grief. The community’s love for them and for their child was palpable in its power to be with them during the viewing in the funeral home thru the church service and the rescue reception afterwards. My heart swelled in absolute gratitude as I experienced this confluence of love, caring and support for my sister, her children, grandchildren and specifically for her son and his wife. People do care. Life can hit us in our gut and we can only stay standing because others stand with us and around us to hold us up until we find our own footing again. Family is also about rejoicing in the promise of new life whether it is a wedding or a new baby as well as holding each other when we need to be held. I am thankful that our love for each other sustains us in our losses and celebrates with us in our joys.
Expansions and contractions of family matrixes impact everyone. When new spouses and babies enter a family matrix, there is a creation of new lines of relationships. When death claims a parent or grandparent, their place in the matrix goes quiet and never disappears. I have imagined the matrices of family that preceded my generation and how they now sit silently watching as the new family matrices vibrate with the currency of life. When children die, they too never lose their place in the family matrix though they are quiet. We react to their potential denied and yet we go on. We will always see my grandnephew as the baby boy surrounded by his girl cousins. The divorces are the same. While one partner remains active in the matrix of their own birth family, the other partner is not as active an element as before. S/he is still in relationship with all of us. It feels odd; it requires adjustment, and we have lived thru it before and will live thru it again. What I know about divorce is this…the couples are moving forward to claim lives that are powerfully their own. It is as positive a step into standing in their own truth and into living their craving for their best life, that their weddings were. Divorces require new dances of relationship for all involved and we are all better served when we keep those doors open to create new ways to love and be together.
So, what are my family’s expansion and contractions this past year? As I said, we are a large clan. In my immediate family, a new child was born last December. She is one year old now and babbling away as she toddles about. In 2018, one niece got married. Another niece gave birth in September to her second daughter. The family has two pregnancies going well as we await those babies in 2019 as well as an engagement with the wedding in about a year. It is such a joy to welcome new spouses and new children into the family matrix. It is also hard to walk with family as they dissolve their marriage or suffer loss. It’s two sides of the coin of connection. We are there for each other no matter which side of the coin is showing.
My heart holds you with deep affection. I hope that your Hanukah was perfect in remembering how important hope is in our lives; that this holiday season holds moments of joy for you; that Christmas brings you full circle to love and gratitude for those who walk this life path with you; and that Kwanza holds you in its spirit of community united in love for each other.