Years ago, I dragged one of my children to a therapist.
“He’s never happy,” I explained.
The therapist, who poked his psyche, plied him with questions, and handed him crayons, finally concurred.
“Seems to have empty pockets,” he said.
Over the course of therapy, he helped him – and me – fill them up. But I’ve never forgotten that image: Empty pockets. Pockets turned inside out, nothing in them. Hands held out, palms up. Shoes laced for the journey. No supplies on hand.
I wonder what’s in their pockets when my friends, middle-aged and losing their parents, begin the journey of grief. I believe that when their pockets are full of loving notes and clear guilt-free messages from their parents, their journey will be easier.
My own mother died a few months ago. Thankfully, she was an explainer. “Your father can be difficult at times,” she used to tell me. “He loves us, he’s just hard on himself.” When I think about my childhood, I don’t have to wonder. I have that note in my pocket.
“Death is part of life,” she said. “I am ready anytime.” Another note.
And “I used to get impatient with people, but why? It just drains my energy.” Still another.
One by one, over the years, she filled my pockets. Explained her quirks. Laughed at her insufficiencies. Told me to be gentle with myself.
My husband and I met recently with an estate planner, who knitted his brows and searched for ways to insure an inheritance for our children in a failing economy.
Treasury notes, he said, were a safe bet. Maybe. But I believe the kind my mother left are more important: loving notes and clear, guilt-free messages. That’s what I want to put in my children’s pockets.