When John O’Donohue’s blessing for the end of the year came across my screen yesterday, my reaction was resistance. Isn’t that so often my way? To resist. Anyone other than O’Donohue and I would have scrolled away at “give thanks for the gifts  brought.”
Are you fucking kidding me? All this year did was take and take the beautiful gifts of my life.
My sons’ other grandmother, who was my cherished friend.
My long-awaited first grandbaby, gone before she even took shape, before I could hold him in my arms.
My little-girl dream of putting my broken mess of a family back together shattered when the Cyclops walked into Mom’s room and said we would need two urns for her ashes, sawing her in half and burning her with words as she lay there breathing.
My friend Anne, who I guess I thought was going to live forever even though she’d been sick for more than ten years.
Anne’s granddaughter Alysha, 25 years old and balm to everyone who knew her.
My love-dog Jake.
But I trust John O’Donohue’s voice, so I kept reading, until his words “became inlaid within.”
I bless this year for all I learned, for all I loved and lost. I bless it for the gifts it brought.
Three months of precious time with my mother, reading to her, dancing with her in our awkward way, learning about her—and how alike we are. Holding her in my arms as she slept.
The gift of release for Maria who two years ago told me she prayed every night to be gone by morning.
The joy I shared with Mom the day my son and daughter-in-love Facetimed to tell us they were pregnant and Mom and I later talked about how glorious it would feel when I placed my grandbaby in her arms. That moment will never happen in the physical realm and yet we shared it, she and I, and now “neither time nor tide” can touch it.
Likewise, the family I have wanted to repair since I was a child exists only in my imagination. I am finally able to let go of the people who don’t want to be a part of it. I treasure the beautiful, loving family that chooses me: my sisters and their kids and grandkids, LW and our sons and their dad, my daughters in law and love, my heart-brother Gary, my chosen sisters, Anne’s family, which she welcomed us into when we moved here 13 years ago.
At the beginning of this year, Mom and I started reading memoir, then a novel, then another. Halfway through the second one, when I realized she wasn’t getting anything out of it anymore, I picked up the book of Mary Oliver’s poems I had brought with me and started reading from that. The poem Mom liked best, which I read again and again, starts out:
I don’t want to lose a single thread
from the intricate brocade of this happiness.
I want to remember everything.
I don’t want to lose a single thread from this heart-smashed-open-buffalo-jump of a year.
Not the frosty mornings chain-smoking with Bec on her patio. Not our cousin Beck appearing out of nowhere when we needed her the most. Not the stabs of grief every time I turned around. Not the afternoon Laura, the executive director of Mom’s care home, came into Mom’s room and sang Calling All Angels in a voice like an angel herself, and Mom asked me to help her out of bed so she could sit up and listen. Not the 14-hour drive home through a province deserted and apocalyptic. Not my last few stilted walks with Jake. Not the afternoon a gang of us sat under a tarp outside the window of Anne’s hospital room as the rain poured down inside and out. Not Anne’s croaky voice as she sang herself home.
I bless this year and all I learned, and all I loved and lost.
I remember it all, every thread. I remember everything.