Monday, November 29, 2010



After lifetimes spent in preparation, they are now departing.
One by one we are watching them go, embarking on exotic journeys of which we can only wonder.
Dressed up in our finery, we gather together to see another one off, once again to wave our goodbyes as we watch one more ship sail into the west and out of our sight.

They were the illustrious class ahead of us all, those of once unimaginable age and unreachable experience.
We studied them carefully, recording their stories at family reunions, seeking their counsel whenever we could.
They were true north - our road maps, our templates.
Don’t they see we aren’t yet ready to move up ahead, to now be the ones the younger ones watch, to now be the ones from whom the answers are required.
We stand on the shoreline and call to them, “Wait!” - but they merely smile nonchalantly and wave us farewell.
We fight our childish urge to wheedle and whine, and stamp our feet - why are they leaving us all so soon?
Too soon, too soon.

But here we sit, the once too-young ones - with our hands folded, our heads bowed - at another valediction, another bon voyage.
Already lonesome for their presence, we are beginning to feel the weight of the mantle we now inherit.
Funny, it seems a bit lighter than I would have imagined.

by Linda Pastan

They seemed to all take off
at once; Aunt Grace
whose kidneys closed shop,
Cousin Rose who fed sugar
to diabetes;
my grandmother’s friend
who postponed going so long
we thought she’d stay.

It was like the summer years ago
when they all set out on trains
and ships, wearing hats with veils
and the proper gloves,
because everybody was going
someplace that year,
and they didn’t want
to be left behind.


  1. Oh Panela, How touching! When you get to be my age this is the most poigent message of all. I don't want to leave, for I have much to do,and yet I know that time is short an much will be left undone. Bless you for this posting.

  2. I am sorry Pamela, yes it is poignant to be cast in the role of 'elder' although we know we can fill that spot there are times when we too long for guidance.
    My sister and I are the only ones left, thank goodness she is older and wiser than I.

  3. Beautiful pairing - the poems and the Autumn picture!

  4. As the tears drip onto the keyboard I realise that it's me you are writing about!!!

  5. Bittersweet...and touching and just around the elusive corner.

  6. Some how we don't expect to become the "Elders". I'm only 63 and I am only one female cousin away from being the Matriarch of the family. There are several male cousins older than I but in the past two years, we've lost 3 of them in the last two years. I am so not ready to be "old".

  7. I relate so much to this Pamela! The eldest of eight, to set the bar high, be the "wise" one,be the example for children, granchildre, nieces and nephews!

    I am not always up to it, must be, as it is expected!

    Art by Karena

  8. It's so nice ! The combination of text and picture.


  9. A beautiful piece, Paamela.
    There are some older than me in our family but. I am gradually climimg that ladder and am more than half way !!!!
    .....but, wih glass half full and positively overflowing, I don't let it worry me at all.....I just am so sad at waving others goodbye. XXXX

  10. Oh Pamela,
    sorry about the extra A in your name and for mis-spelling climbing.....I have a plaster on my finger and keep hitting the wrong keys !!!! XXXX

  11. I moved into this plane when both parents were gone. My siblings and I became the "front line" as I referred to it. All the aunts and uncles are gone and it sobered me to realize the front line had become us.
    We are so blissfully ingnorant in our youth. Maybe that's why it is remembered with fondness.

  12. Dear Pamela, How beautifully you capture the responsibility that comes with age and the death of family elders. It all seems so very difficult when inside one still thinks of oneself as little more than a teenager at times!!

  13. Beautiful and touching post.

    And I love Linda Pastan's poems.

  14. Pamela, I wonder if this is a common theme in Linda Pastan's work. I put up a poem on the blog called The Last Uncle, which talks about the same feelings:

    Just in the time of my children's lives, my aunts and uncles have died so that there is one sister of my mother left, and two sisters-in-law. That's it. We cousins are the old ones now, and it is indeed daunting, and sad.

  15. Pamela, you've touched such a tender point. I often think about the following in the footsteps of my older generations and how we keep them alive through memories and traditions. It's something which comes gradually, I still remember me being 17 and hoping my grandmother would be around forever! Now my parents are in their high 70's and I am right in the middle, but the oldest of my generation. It is with a bittersweet feeling to know we will have to part one day and I will tell stories from days gone by to my grandchildren. My memories span this way from the 1900 to the presence.
    Thank you for finding always such poignant, lovely words!


    PS: Happy First of Advent!

  16. I always think of the royal family of England when I think of waving. They do from the elbow, not the wrist and this is something they teach the young ones and the newly married. I'm sure that Kate has already gotten her lesson on how to properly wave - from the elbow!

  17. Touching and pertinent indeed.You have caught my mood exactly, although I have had no one 'leaving' recently, I just feel as if I am creeping up to the elder position.

  18. I have a Departure File, and in amongst all the bequests and last minutes directions are a few poems and words of wisdom. I shall add this poignant poem to it, Pamela - and thank you. It lightens the departure preparations.....

  19. I read this somewhere, and I completely agree:
    "I have no age, I have life", hope the translation is correct.
    Nice post.
    Hugs from Brasil.

  20. What a touching post, Pamela. And yes, so very poignant. It is such a strange thing to find oneself moving up the ladder, isn't it?
    Glad to hear things carry on feeling quite normal once they arrive!

  21. I have had intimations of mortality over the last week or so Pamela - this post touched a fragile spot indeed.

  22. Lighter then true.
    It was always about the journey they said....?
    Tereza wrote.. I have no age, I have life...but life ends somewhere down the road!
    I am very gratefull to be traveling for 53 years now. In my family they are all younger then you can imagine we were waving goodbey may times'' to soon''
    I am the 'mater familias'..the one that speeches on family days. There wil come a day someone else has to do the speeching..
    Beautiful post dearest!

  23. Lately I have felt this change in roles very closely...With all my siblings and elders gone I now feel the weight of becoming the elder...It is a weight I am still resisting I'm afraid...a weight that still seems un-natural to me. I hope I grow into it gracefully...

  24. This is so well put Pamela! It's something that plays upon most of our minds I think. I loved the poem!

    Hugs to you

  25. As I read "Waving" I suddenly realized tears were streaming down my cheek. I was craving that guidance and nurturing I didn't appreciate as a child. Thank you for that moment.


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