Life has a way of placing things along our path in a curious and auspicious way. This, for example, is how an article by Lawrence Peacock caught my eye today, about learning to live in the absence of our parents. It was an almost eerie coincidence, as my husband’s father passed away last week, the last of our children’s four grandparents. An hour after my good friend invited us for dinner, in a caring gesture because we were mourning the loss of a parent, she had to call and uninvite us because her own mother was being rushed to the hospital for an emergency heart operation. Today I learned of the passing of the parent of yet another friend. My own parents passed away a few years apart, a few years ago. This is the time in our lives in which, like myself and my husband, our friends are all dealing with the loss of parents and with the reckoning that this profound event brings in its wake.
The article I stumbled upon is well written and addresses beautifully several important points, one of the most important of which is the need to raise our children so that they can not only survive, but thrive without us when we are gone. However, the message that stood out for me was the author’s treatment of the aspects of his father that he missed even while his father was still alive, or those qualities in his father which were not what he would have wished for. As he matured both as a son and as a parent to his own children, Peacock candidly expresses how he lovingly ‘released’ his imperfect father from being the only person to shape his own identity and found valuable and admirable qualities to identify with in others, friends and mentors. Our parents did not choose their biological and genetic predispositions, nor the circumstances and traumatic experiences to which they were exposed, which shaped who they have become. What is in our power to choose is what we want to keep and emulate and what we want to pass on from our parents to our children, as well as what we choose to differentiate ourselves from and leave behind.
The fact that I happened to notice the article today is the kind of serendipity that leads some to believe in synchronicity, in some grand plan, or in the fact that the universe is actively teaching us lessons or responding to the vicissitudes of our human lives. From a less mystical perspective, I do believe that the universe is offering us, even if passively, an endless richness of incidents, people and objects that catch our attention in auspicious ways, as our changing needs heighten our attention to them.
The equanimity that Peacock has chosen to share can bring solace and comfort to many in the final separation and the final account of our relationships with our parents.