The Circle of Life

Here’s a column I wrote in August 2007, that seems especially appropriate today.
The circle of life” isn’t just an idea dreamed up by Disney. Every day we are confronted with its reality–births, deaths, and every stage and milestone in between. Rarely, though, has it hit me so hard as this past weekend.
On Friday morning, I remembered that a dear friend, with whom I have kept in touch since high school, would be in the hospital having her first baby that day. Kris and her husband, Colin, live in Florida, so I knew I’d have to wait for the happy news, but I thought about her and the baby throughout the event-crammed weekend.
Saturday was a particularly busy day, with celebrations of two of life’s milestones. That morning, I attended a Memorial Mass for Dr. Tom Ryan. I knew Dr. Ryan in recent years as a fellow parishioner at Immaculate Conception and organizer along with his wife of the monthly Book Swap which serves to feed my family’s book-collecting addiction. But I’ve known the Ryans since I was a little girl because their children were at St. Joseph when I was and Mrs. Ryan was my high school speech teacher, guidance counselor, and drama club sponsor.
Dr. Ryan planned his own Memorial Mass, and the celebration in the Parish Hall afterwards was lively, with Irish music, mimosas, and laughter as well as tears. His five grandchildren and the stories shared by his family were vibrant reminders that we live on in our descendants and in the memories of those we leave behind.
Only a few hours later I found myself at a wedding. My husband and I were married just out of college and before most of our peers, and for many years after our marriage we were attending weddings of friends and family frequently. Then we moved on to baby showers. In recent years we’ve attended lots of funerals. Now, apparently, we are entering a new stage–the weddings of our friends’ children. For those of you who have not yet experienced it, nothing will make you feel older than watching your date to the Junior Prom walking his 20-year-old daughter down the aisle on her wedding day!
The bride’s mother and I spent many hours together at Knoxville Catholic High School, between Drama Club, Mock Trial, and the Green and Gold newspaper. We’re the kind of friends who go years without a word and then run into each other in Kohl’s and talk for an hour (to the disgust of any children accompanying us). Seeing her as mother of the bride was surreal. But it was a lovely wedding, and Emily was the happiest bride I think I’ve ever seen–she never stopped smiling. We enjoyed sitting across from her new mother-in-law, who was holding the beautiful newborn daughter of a relative and talking about her own soon-to-arrive grandchild, the son of the groom’s older brother. “I’m not going to let anyone spoil my grandbaby,” she announced. “I’m going to hold him 24 hours a day to make sure.”
I remember two-year-old Emily charming us all at one of my own wedding showers–a time very much on my mind because this Sunday was our 18th anniversary. We had planned to celebrate as we usually do, but in the end we had to postpone our plans because we were too busy with arrangements for another big day–the first day of school for my own Emily and her brothers Jake and Teddy (William already started last week). We spent all afternoon and most of the evening buying school supplies and helping Emily with the finishing touches on her summer assignment for AP English.
The children all finally in bed (way past the appropriate time, naturally), I finally had a few minutes to sit down and check my email, and was thrilled to find one from my friend Kris’s mother, announcing that baby Andrew had arrived Friday afternoon. A birth, a funeral, a wedding, and an anniversary–it sounds like a movie but it’s really just Life, isn’t it?
EDIT: Kris has two boys now, and the “newlyweds” are the proud parents of two boys and a girl.

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  1. September 22, 2015

    […]  Next came the baby showers.  Lately, it seems it’s always funerals.  It’s the circle of life and all, I realize (and I do love a good funeral, as I may have mentioned a time or two!).  But […]

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