“In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.”

-Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher and author of the Tao Te Ching

As I unhooked Eric from his car seat in Nana’s driveway, he saw her in the doorway and said excitedly, “Me see my Nana! Me see my Nana!” After I put him down he ran—both arms stretched out wide (it couldn’t have been sweeter)—to her and gave her a big hug around her legs. Those two share such a magical bond. He loves to spend time with Nana, and we talk about her all the time.

Nana made hot dogs for us for lunch, which we all enjoyed around her kitchen table as we reminisced about times when my mom and aunts and uncle were little and where they all used to sit. These are the moments and days I cherish. So much of my life, too, has been lived at Nana’s house, and I often think about what that shared family space really means and how it is sacred in its own way. When we walk, sit, stand, and play in that house we are connected to all the years that came before. If I start thinking about how much I wish I could have one more time with everyone—Grandpa Mitchell, Uncle Eric—around the dining room table, I find still in myself a sadness so deep that I know it will never leave me no matter how much time passes. The only thing we can do for it is to be present at this moment in our family journey.

During his afternoon snack of raisins, Eric went over to Nana and climbed up on his own to sit with her. He talked and giggled with her…and cuddled. Shortly after I took these pictures, he leaned in toward her and put his forehead on her forehead and looked into her eyes for a moment, as if to pass something from his heart into her heart. He is such a sweet and soulful little boy. After this, he started asking Nana about the pictures on the shelf behind her chair. The first one he took down was of my first birthday, with me in my high chair and Uncle Eric and Aunt Jenny on either side of me.

These are the precious days…

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After publishing this blog (the first time) I went to check my sleeping son, his soft baby breath puffing into the night and his arm clutched around his “E” (Eeyore). As I stood looking at him and savoring the curve of his body and the roundness of his cheek, I thought about how much he loves his Nana and how we talked about how he wanted to have a good dream about their day together. Perhaps he is dreaming that dream, even now.

And then I thought, “How will I ever explain to him when the time comes for her to pass on from us?” I hope that is many, many years away—so many, that by then he might understand. Then I had this epiphany that parents sometimes have about our real role in life. It is my job to lead him toward loving people with his whole heart, knowing that one day we lose them and knowing, as I do now, the pain that comes with missing someone you really adore. In all his baby innocence, he knows nothing of those nuances yet: how the reward of loving people is so much greater than the grief that comes when they must leave us. As parents, as adults, we know so much better now—don’t we?—what life has in store. We must teach our babies to hold their joy and be grateful for it, but then to learn how to live without it. Life gives and takes. It is always made new, but underneath it all there is loss. For a heartbreaking moment, I stood and looked at my son in his crib with a lump in my throat and tears.  How will I explain this all to Eric? How will I explain it to Katie?

I am reminded of a poem, In Blackwater Woods, by Mary Oliver, excerpted here:

“To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.”