The time to contemplate the ending is before the ending. ~365 Tao
The beginning of any transition is the recognition of completion.
Nothing new ever arises without a parallel movement of decline.
Birth demands the sacrifice of an ending. This is true whether or not the ending is welcomed or unwelcomed, and whether or not the newness is welcomed or unwelcomed. The birth of a first child claims the aloneness of couplehood or singleness. A move from one home to another means a movement from generating memories in a place to simply recalling the memories of that place. A job is left, a trip ends, a person in our life dies. Some endings are tinged with feelings of loss. We grieve, we reminisce, we ruminate. Others come with a rush of relief—a stressful time eases, our schedule relaxes, an opportunity opens.
Most often, it seems these endings are bittersweet with things that are lost even while others are gained.
April marked the completion of a year for me—not in a calendar sense, but thematically. Its beginning—April 13th, 2021, was ushered in by the physical death of my friend Mary. Her death brought to completion the year before, which was marked by our friendship and by the intentional way she engaged with her terminal diagnosis. She gave her whole self to the process of her dying, and welcomed her friends to join alongside as best we could. When she crossed the threshold worthily last April, our time with her ended and our time without her began.
Just weeks after her death, I began the last year of my Master of Theological Studies program, deciding to take two summer courses. A month after Mary’s death, I received the email from Jacqueline that would set in motion the making of Seven Year Summer into an audiobook. I felt Mary’s hand in the connection with Jacqueline. Before she died, Mary told us that she would help us in our lives—though being clear that she would never let us win the lottery, which she considered more of a curse than a blessing.
This past fall, I began working on my summative project—an integrative examination of Medical Assistance In Dying in Canada, which would eventually culminate in an 80-page research paper. I took two trips to Ontario while my mom moved. The many details of the audiobook project unfolded over almost 10 months.
It was hard work. Many mornings when sitting down to my computer I prayed that the work of my head would be brought together with the work of my heart and released through the work of my hands.
In the last few months, I began to tire. I was tired of revisions. Tired of deadlines. And tired of so much busyness. Although I loved what I was doing, the months of work accumulated and suddenly felt weighty. The finish line was nearing, but I had little time to contemplate it.
To cross the threshold worthily, that’s all I wanted to do. Worthily—not perfectly. Not a perfect project or paper or sales or grades. More than that, I wanted to meet the end of this significant year with intention, giving my whole self to the process, regardless of the outcome. To step knowingly from one place to another. To bid the ending thanks for the lessons it imparted. To express my gratitude. To let it go. The work I did this year deserves that.
Then, a mentor of mine reminded me that at the end of a long cycle, help often comes from outside ourselves to carry us over the threshold. And so it did. In March, the year culminated in the release of the audiobook and the submission of my final paper within a few weeks of each other. It is bittersweet. I am proud of the work that I’ve done this year and I’ve gained confidence in my abilities to see hefty projects through to the end. I’m grateful that I listened to what was calling and pursued it, though it was difficult at times. And it is hard to close these projects, too, although I am ready. They brought meaning and structure and accomplishment to my life. The small death that is my time as a student has come.
I welcome this ending that feels full and complete, worthy though imperfect.
So ends Stage 1.