As the New Year began, I knew deep down it would be a life changing year for me. It was not a year I looked forward to as life moves forward in its circle of death and rebirth. I saw before me a year where a passage in my life might end that I did not want to end.
I want to preserve the eternal youth of having parents and beloved relatives in my life. The familial comfort of matriarchs and patriarchs keep me in childhood even though I am middle aged. I want to continue having my parents call my siblings and I the “kids” whenever the five of us are referred to or together.
I do not feel prepared, or want to move into the matriarch position. My sisters, brothers, cousins and I see the true passage of our childhoods ending. We have already been in training for the positions of matriarch and patriarch of our families for quite a while now; we just did not realize it. As our parents have aged, or as cousins have already lost parents and even siblings, we still had the remaining matriarchs and patriarchs to keep us in childhood.
But as our parents and aunts and uncles have aged, we have watched as illness and old age rob them of who they use to be. Helplessly we stand by as they lose pieces of themselves through dementia, illness and loss. Our hearts ache as they fight to keep their identities and independence, their angry frustrations at losing control of their lives.
We are in the early stages of grief as the reality of losing our matriarchs and patriarchs closes in. We “kids” forget in our grief that our parents are losing what is left of their family, the one where they were once considered the “kids” in another lifetime. They have been in the process of losing each other for quite a while now.
I see how I cling to my brothers, sisters and cousins as we move through this passage of our lives. I can’t imagine losing them after our parents, aunts and uncles are gone. I cannot even fathom losing a sibling, much less my parents, of which I have a cousins who have already experienced this loss and grief.
Recently my cousin Jane posted pictures on Facebook of all of us when we were truly kids. We range in age from mid forties to seventy now, and seeing those pictures took us back to our childhood. I realize after viewing these captured pictures of our youth, that I can visit my eternal childhood anytime I need to, with or without the matriarchs and patriarchs.
As my brothers, sisters and cousins and I recounted our lives together while looking at these pictures, I realized that we are ready to be the Matriarchs and Patriarchs of our family. No one wants to lose loved ones, but we cannot stop the circle of life.
But we can decide how to respond to it. I realize now that I am prepared for this rite of passage, and I will do it with the grace and love I have learned as I watched my family lose loved ones.
Stephen Covey has stated that in life it is how we respond to what happens to us that is most important. He also stated that we must live, learn, laugh and leave a legacy. I am using these four important words of wisdom as I become prepared to become one of the Matriarchs.
For I saw within those pictures of childhood past, lives that were marked in joy, but often sorrow. I learned that we are a resilient family, with the courage to forgive, love again, and move forward. The laughter we share together, either together or over social media, are sounds of the eternal childhood and adults reaching out to each other.
But most important, I am prepared for my role to become a Matriarch. Our family has a Legacy that extends beyond our parents back to our Irish American grandparents that we all shared.
A legacy I make sure that my own children know so they can pass it on to their children. One of music, love, family, strength and courage will persevere as we move beyond the eternal childhood to the honored place of Matriarchs and Patriarchs.