Live Meaningfully – By Ayesha G. Shenk, M.A.
As anticipated, it is early November as I write this for our December print deadline and life is indeed markedly different. My doors are open to a temperate 64 degrees, the sun is shining, Bodhi is pacing, Sara Bareilles plays in the background, and I have a tiny, perfect, two-and-a-half week-old baby girl sleeping next to me.
Ava Grace Shenk was born just past midnight on October 29th, 2018. The significance of that date probably can’t be overstated…of course, because her entry into our world has changed everything for us forever. But also, because it has set into motion a life’s work that is yet unknown and full of promised magic. Joys and sorrows, triumphs and trials, other lives touched as a result of the child, girl, young woman, perhaps wife and even mother that she will eventually be in her own right, are yet to be discovered. On October 29th a mighty soul was unleashed into the world and life will be better as a result of it.
The other, particularly sweet, reason October 29th stands out in significance is because it was also my mother’s birthday before she passed away in 1997.
She was the most amazing woman.
She was a force with whom to be reckoned and was beautiful in all the most important ways. She shaped the world (including me) in her all-too-few years in an extraordinary way and though I only had eighteen years with her, her profound impact was never lost on me.
To give you an idea, for years after her passing, strangers would approach me and ask if Nans was my mother. They would then wax on poetically about what she had done for them, how she had touched their lives or how much they had loved her. From local ‘dignitaries’ to the grocery baggers at Publix… I kid you not. She was really something.
Nevertheless, as one can imagine, her death rocked my world in all of the most painful ways and it took me years to come to some sort of acceptance, even if not understanding, of how it could have happened and what I was supposed to learn from it. Death is a particularly devastating force because it is the only thing that is infinite and never changes.
I was the youngest, by a number of years, of Nan’s children and for much of my young life it was just the two of us. My sisters were away at school and my father traveled extensively for work. So rattling around a big house was a little girl and her mother making their way in the world according to their own set of rules. She and I created a unique language and understanding of life and the world at large that would serve me far beyond my eighteen years with her. She taught me to see people in the important ways and to express myself authentically and vulnerably. She taught me to listen to my inner voice and honor my own intuition. She may very well be the reason I am a therapist today.
After her passing I always wondered whether I’d have a daughter with whom I could share the same sort of closeness and understanding. I wished, hoped and prayed for it on days her loss felt particularly resonant.
I’m not sure who exactly Ava will be or how our relationship will evolve and I wouldn’t dream of putting the duress on her to be who I once needed her to be… but I can’t wait to find out and I am grateful that everything changes.
Today’s a day like any other
But I am changed
I am a mother
Oh in an instant
And who I was has disappeared
It doesn’t matter, now you’re here
I was lost for you to find
And now I’m yours and you are mine
Two tiny hands, a pair of eyes
An unsung melody is mine for safekeeping
And I will guard it with my life
I’d hang the moon for it to shine on her sleeping
Starting here and starting now
I can feel the heart of how
My heart’s at the wheel now
And all my mistakes
They make sense when I turn them around
What I thought was so permanent fades
And I swear I’ll remember to say we were both born today
Oh, and it’s true
What did I do to deserve you
I didn’t know, but now I see
Sometimes what is, is meant to be
Thank God for you
Be Well; Live Meaningfully.
Ayesha G. Shenk, M.A. practices at 2150 Park Avenue North as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and can be reached at www.livemeaningfully.net or 407-796-2959.