Conversations With an Empty Chair, #365StrongStories 53

imageOne Friday, my Mom and I spent the day in the kitchen talking about a revolution.  Well, we were whispering about the stuff that eventually leads to revolution. We were talking about the state of the world and daring to examine our fears and entertain all the “what ifs?” What happens when we all find out that Al Gore has been right about the climate?  What happens when people really start to run out of water? How many links in the chain have to break before our global network of food distribution is disrupted? In what part of the psyche and the spirit should stories like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road reside?

It has been six years since my mother and I had the luxury of marinating on our 3 a.m. worries together. We lavished so much attention on hypothetical global crises and never spared a thought for the private tragedies that could be so much harder to bear.

We had no idea then that mom had a few hundred thousand minutes left to live. She’d be dead of a sudden heart attack by mid-summer and she’d never know if any our great big global fears would change our comfortable American lives.

Now that I sit alone at the same kitchen in 2016, I don’t have any clarity more clarity about the fate of western civilization. I’m not even sure have any more perspective on the unbearably brief and precious nature of an individual life. I still wish away time as I long for spring and pray that the tougher phases of childhood will pass quickly.

But then I dive deep into this line from Natalie Goldberg: “Give everything while you can.”

I think it’s easy to misread this as “do more!” After all, we live in a “lean in” and “manifest 6 figures in 30 days” kind of world. But I guess I have learned enough about mortality and personal tragedy to reframe these words into those that heal rather than strain.

That winter day in 2010, my mother and I didn’t leave the kitchen. We didn’t solve a single problem or even take the dog for a walk. We snuggled my new baby girl and we loved one another and we dared to be vulnerable and speak our truths. Though I cry as I type these words, it’s just because I am overcome with gratitude for knowing that on that particular day, we gave each other everything while we could.