Monday, October 15, 2012

Still Scared

I find eternity a scary concept, thank you, Sister Immaculata. I was eight years old on a rainy October afternoon (I remember because it was my birthday) and, like my classmates, waiting for the dismissal bell. Sister filled in the time by explaining eternity to us. She told us to picture a beach and imagine a bird that flew to the beach every hundred years. It picked up one grain of sand and flew away with it. When all the sand in the world was gone, that would be just the beginning of eternity. That night, and many others, I lay in bed and let the immensity of eternity wash over me. How could there not be an ending?

Endings, like beginnings, are part of our living experience. There are cruel and shattering endings, happy endings and innumerable ordinary endings.No day exists without endings; they are part of the rhythm of life. But, here's something contradictory: some endings change.

I think of Neil. The story of his relationship with his mother ends with the realization and acceptance that his mother did not love him. He had a lot of reasons to end the story this way.  But one day, years after his mother's death, the ending changed.  He was standing in an aisle in the grocery store feeling rejected and unloved and sad because of a nasty incident with a business client. He found himself staring at a jar of pickles. He put the jar in his cart, though he never bought pickles and had no intention of having them for the dinner he was seeking. That night, he was unable to sleep, still feeling wounded by his client's shocking behavior. The way she turned on him was similar to what his mother would have done. Then, the pickles came to mind. Throughout his adult years of visiting his mother, she always had on hand the pickles and marmalade he liked as a boy. In that moment of recall, the ending of the story with his mother changed.  She did love him. It wasn't enough, it wasn't generous, it wasn't the way he would have like it to be. BUT, she did love him, some. The changing of this ending, made a change in him.

Even the cruelest ending can, over time, change.What was unbearable is bearable, what was forever is limited, what was never to be again, resurfaces. Only eternity has no ending. And how scary is that.


Aileen said...

I love this piece on this dark windy grey cold wet-leaf day when everything seems to have ended all at once.

"What was unbearable is bearable" is one of life's biggest mysteries for me. I've experienced it many times and it still seems mysterious and strange.

I like that you write "No day exists without endings." That will make me notice them in the coming days. I like endings, some endings, just because they give shape and feel better than uncertainty.

Eternity? No ending? Unbearable.... But maybe that will change.

MtC said...

A nun told my class the same thing once, long ago. It didn't scare me as much as it impressed me. The impression was I better be good because eternity would be very long and unpleasant time in hell. I no longer think that hell as understood in the past exists and I prefer eternal existence to eternal nothingness. The possibilities available in an eternal existence are limitless and I look forward to spending some good times with you then (sooner, too).

Bridget said...

Hi Aileen,
Unbearable turns out to be bearable is about time, I guess. Time is mysterious, a constant that is forever changing.

Bridget said...

Those nuns had a lot of such stories up their very wide, long sleeves. The hell stories were the worst.

Gigi Little said...

...sister filled in the time by explaining eternity..." ooh, nice.

Bridget said...

I enjoyed writing that line. Thanks for seeing it.