The last of the tribe left yesterday. We have had our immediate family (12 of us – including the grandbabies ages 4, 3, 2 and 6 months) in full force or overlapping since the middle of December. There was also an uptick of numbers on New Year’s Day when 23 more extended family members joined us for lasagna and fun in the snow. (By some LDS folks’ standards, the numbers probably seem skimpy – no more than an average Family Night with the cousins.)
It’s a heady experience to see the lyrics of “Sunrise, Sunset” play out before my eyes. As I watch my grown kids handle their toddlers I feel a rush of “As you are, I once was and as I am, you will become” (to reframe Lorenzo Snow’s couplet). I definitely experience tsunamis of joy and ineffable affection.
But I am not naïve. Being part of a family is also gritty, messy, noisy, vexing, muscular and unrelenting (– even when your children and grandchildren are as fabulous as mine).
Out my windows I see a glorious vista of snow-capped peaks and primal forests. Spectacular as the view is, I also know there are bears, cougars and other carnivores in them thar woods who survive by fangs and claws. Beauty is also part bloodbath. That is how nature and life is. You can’t have one without the other.
My children now are acquiring the very beginnings of “smile lines” while my grandchildren’s faces are absolutely pristine, fresh off the Divine press. The lady I see in the mirror these days looks familiar, but increasingly travel-worn. But, oh, where those travels – physical, intellectual, spiritual, emotional – have taken me! Each little wrinkle is like a luggage tag marking some journey I have taken with my body or soul – or both.
“There are plenty of aspects of aging that I don’t much care for,” I mused with my son over the holidays. “But there are other parts that are terrific.”
“Which parts are those?” he asked, knowing a set up when he heard one.
“I’m so much wiser than I used to be,” I trumpeted. “And I have a much better sense of what to get upset about… which is less and less these days.”
There are still collisions of virtues that knock me off kilter. When the delicate titrations of balance between obedience and integrity, justice and mercy, healthy boundaries and healthy inclusion get out of whack, so do I. When I see my family and friends in pain or grieving, I feel helpless until I recall that being present, listening and providing a safe place for them may do at least some good.
Life will throw all sorts of challenges everyone’s way – challenges both of the beautiful and the bloodbath varieties. As I keep recording the comfort of Romans 8: 38-39 onto the all-too-human tablet of my heart, there is something whole and holy about the journey. So maybe I should start embracing those wrinkles.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39