I don’t want to lose a single thread

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 [2020] brought.”

Are you fucking kidding me? All this year did was take and take the beautiful gifts of my life.

My mother.

My sons’ other grandmother, who was my cherished friend.

My lifetime troubadour.

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.

16 Responses to “I don’t want to lose a single thread”

    • commatologist

      That’s how I feel about you, Laurie. And you taught me a wonderful phrase the other day: Niente senza gioia. All joy to you and yours in the new year. xo

  1. carin

    Your writing and the things your beautiful heart has led me to discover are one of the great joys of my online world. I agree with the above, you are a gift. It is such a pleasure to ‘know’ you through your words…

    All happiness to you and yours, Leslie. xo

  2. Joan Conway

    As I too reflect on this year it is at times with a sense of terrible beauty. I heard recently that the heart has the capacity to hold it all. Let us indeed not forget anything. Beautiful words.

    • commatologist

      I think it does, Joan. Every time mine breaks, it breaks open wider. Thank you for your beautiful presence in my life. xo

  3. Diana Z

    I am so sorry for all of the loss you have endured this year. It is so much. And not being able to have a funeral for your mother — i can so understand how it must be painful to grieve alone and not have had that healing time of closure with your family and everyone else who loved her. I hope 2021 brings you some comfort and moments of joy. I believe that we all struggle with the imperfectness of our first families and work hard to create our chosen families.


  4. commatologist

    Thank you, Diana. My sisters and I are hoping we’ll be able to get together at some point in the new year to have a memorial for Mom. I wish you and Danièle health, happiness and prosperity in the new year, but most of all, love. xo

  5. Ramona Scott

    thank you Leslie. To usher in the New Year, I just listened to John O’Donohue’s talk “Imagination as the Path of Spirit”, then opened your sharing “I don’t want to lose a single thread”. Synchronicity. Love it. Wonder if you would like to listen to this talk by John O’Donohue. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkXRaFm33Eg
    Such a great talk for the start of a New Year. He is so humorous, uplifting, inspiring and irreverent with such deep topics.
    Also, sad about loss of Jake. I think it is likely that Jake and my Sage are siblings? Sage is now nearly 14 yrs? old. She has been my greatest companion. Her spirit remains strong but her body is failing. Every day, every moment that she is still in my life is a gift. May 2021 be more gentle, more joyous.

  6. commatologist

    Thanks for the link, Ramona. I’ve not heard that before and I’m really looking forward to listening.

    I remember Sage and I’m happy to hear she’s still with you. If she’s nearly 14 and Jake’s sister, they must be litter mates. Maybe we talked about that possibility once. My memory is not what it used to be! How did you come by her? We got Jake from Ken and Val and they had an almost identical brother as well, who I think ended up on the Hazelton back road. Would you send me a picture of Sage? I think you also had another dog named Soleil? Is s/he still alive?

    Wishing you a bright and beautiful new year.

  7. theresa

    Oh yes, to remember everything. to write it down so lovingly, to cherish and to recall and to honour what hurt, what broke your heart — that is such important work to do in this life. I said to my friends last night on the phone, just before we sang Auld Lang Syne, 4 of us on three phones, We’ll do this again, in person, the way we always have, at midnight, with glasses of sparkling wine, We’ll do this again. And look, you’re doing it, you’re remembering and keeping the threads intact, even if they’re a little frayed. (The most beautiful textiles carry the beauty of their use.)

    • commatologist

      Yes, we’ll do all the things we love again. Some of them maybe differently, and certainly with some holes in the tapestry, but we’ll do them again. Thank you for the beautiful threads you weave, Theresa.

  8. Diane

    I am so very sorry for the loss of your dear mother. I know only too well the pain of losing a mother. Yes, all the other travails are worthy of note, but losing your mother is so very painful. I love that you have chosen to treasure certain moments, people. That’s important.
    I was uncertain how some of my extended family would react/reject/accept my recently discovered brother. Not all have been accepting, but most. And for that I am immensely grateful.

    I’ve loved reading this. There is hope and love within this post.

  9. Judith

    You gave your mother a beautiful passage.
    You give those around you ineffable gifts.

    I wish for you, deeply-loved Leslie, a gentle landing from
    “…this heart-smashed-open-buffalo-jump of a year.”

    • commatologist

      Dear Judith, you gave my heart a gentle landing all through the most difficult moments of last year. I could not have walked it without you. No words could ever thank you.


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