As someone who has spent nine seasons on the sidelines of soccer fields, I feel like I can speak for all sports moms and say that when the season comes to a close, you get giddy. You suddenly have this burst of time in your schedule that was previously filled with driving back and forth to practices and all over God’s green earth for games in obscure locations. Your car can return to its natural scent, no longer held hostage to the putrid smells of goalie gloves and shin pads that refuse to be washed. We won’t even discuss the bodies that wear them. Moment of silence, please.
This year, it’s different. My boys played their last games over the weekend, and the euphoria I usually enjoy was replaced with sadness. As I watched my sons wear the UQFC uniform one last time, both as captains of their teams, I thought: “The first of the lasts. How are we already here?”
“The ’embers are upon us,” I told some friends, meaning those fall months whose final destination is December, our month of leaving Australia and moving back to America. (I realize October doesn’t fit this formula, but let’s not let technicalities ruin a beautiful sentiment. For the sake of continuity, I shall from now on deem that month “Octember.”)
It’s fitting, the play on words. Embers are what remain when a fire is coming to an end. Embers hold on for dear life, but they know their time is short.
When the embers are upon you, you hold close the people and things you love. Conversations are dearer. Time is more precious. Gone are the days of, “We should get together sometime….” Instead, you say, “Can we please meet for coffee? Like, today?” When the embers are upon you, you see petty differences for what they are: petty. You forgive freely and you love deeply. Your resources of grace are deeper than they’ve ever been and you long to lavish kindness with great abandon. You want to savor every minute, memorizing its details, its significance.
And when the embers are upon you, you feel afraid. “What if I haven’t loved enough? What if I haven’t poured myself out completely? What if I haven’t experienced things fully, naively thinking there would be more time? What if I’ve been too distracted to be fully present?” You feel afraid of the unknowns that lie ahead and you find yourself clinging to what’s familiar, because what isn’t known can’t be trusted—or at least it feels that way.
When the embers are upon you, you’re tempted to close shop emotionally and self-protect. You know that the pain will only increase the closer you get to the change, to the ending, and you want to curl yourself in a ball and let the waves of grief pass over, your heart mercifully spared. Yet, you know this isn’t possible. And you know that if you shut down your heart, you’ll miss out on the good stuff, too.
When the embers are upon you, you warm yourself in the moments that remain. You press in closer, hands outstretched, huddled with the ones you love. You know you’re on borrowed time, and you’re grateful for every second. You beg the light to glow a little while longer, and it obeys, for a time.
And then you look around and see your people there, and you rest in the fact that you’re not alone by the fire.