You can figure out how you fit into the puzzle of life, of you can just live your life and assume that your piece already fits in. My mom had both.
When mom retired, as far as I could see, she was able to lift her own puzzle piece from its’ spot and move it deliberately into the spot it was meant to be in. It wasn’t squeezed into the space that the universe had chosen, but instead, placed in her life with perfectly balanced happiness. I listened to her stories about going to the gym, like she used to listen to my high school days. Quietly engaging, without saying much, yet finding gratification in my simple pleasures. I felt simple joy in hearing her talk about all the friends she had made and how she stayed on the elliptical for extended periods of time, just so she could connect with all of her new friends. It was so sweet.
She had no problem switching off her working gears, and in fact, seemed relieved to never again be faced with a quota or a cold-call. She despised having to forecast monthly numbers and shared that often.
“Why do I need to make up numbers that don’t even exist yet? How can I know for sure?”
I remember trying to coach her into believing it was just a game. Make it up and then try to make it come true, I would preach. I didn’t care for that part of sales either, but I did try to live my life-like that, so it seemed like a good motto for work too. But it hardly mattered that cold-calling made her feel sick to her stomach and forecasting felt like lying, because she didn’t really need either of those to be successful. She could light up a room in a way that would make some wonder how it was lit before she even came in. Perhaps that isn’t how it felt to her, but that was certainly how it looked to those around.
The gym wasn’t her only entertainment though as she also became an exquisite mosaic artist in her basement. In addition to that she became an entrepreneur and as she created a Culture Club group and recruited all of her new gym friends to join in. She was a mover and a shaker and retirement was going to simply be a more fun version of her previous life.
Until we heard…that crack.
It was a brilliant sunny August day. My son had forgotten his lunch and was at work, so I agreed happily to whip him up something and drop it off. I felt grateful to have the summer schedule of a teacher and the desire to be ‘mommy’ for my college teen that clearly didn’t need caring for. H greeted me with his usual style of over the top gratitude, and a some PDA and I walked leisurely back to my car. The deep green color of the trees called to me and I inhaled. The blue sky managed to whisper to me as well as I began to open the car door and I thought, freeze. If only I could freeze this moment.
Determined to keep the snail pace I had begun, I found my way to my patio lounge chair, breathing deeply and intentionally. Minutes of stillness were interrupted at the sound of my cell. Tempted not to answer it, I glanced at it slightly and saw my mom’s name. With one last inhale I remembered she had been going to see a doctor about her stomach pains and I picked it up.
There was a crack.
I heard my mom’s slight voice and then a cracking sound of sorts. Her universe. Our universe. And suddenly this life puzzle, the one seemingly so complete, was about to be scattered all around the floor…pieces everywhere.
They think it’s a tumor on my pancreas, her little voice creaked. Cancer. And just like that, we were forced to wonder if her piece was ever going to be a perfect fit again.