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.