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another kind of table turning

another kind of table turning: essay by Andrea Hurley

by Andrea
May 4, 2014

A few days ago I was speaking with Judy, sharing with her about the family party my husband and I hosted last weekend. Well, it was not just a party—it was a remarriage celebration. Our own. After 20 years apart, my former husband and I remarried, and last Saturday we brought both of our very large families together to celebrate. Judy said, “Andrea, write a post about this!” I thought, “Really? But this has nothing to do with what we share on our blog.” She said, “But it’s another kind of table turning.” And so I reflected…

What is a table turning event? With my elderly mother, it is clear. As she became elderly and less able to care for herself, my role as a daughter changed—dramatically. Once a matriarch, full of independence, my 96-year old mother is now so vulnerable. In accepting this new role, I discovered a whole new relationship with my mother, and with Life. In the moment I stopped struggling and negotiating with my precious time, I felt a wave of inner stillness come over me. Through spending real time with my mother, seeing the courage and dignity in the human struggle of aging, my own heart broke open. I started to see aging in a whole new light. I write because there is so much to share about this, so much that I don’t know. My mother gives me access to a part of the human story that not everyone has access to, and through my journey with her I have discovered that nobody’s life story is over til it’s over—and even then I’m not sure it truly ends. And so one reason I write is because of what has become one of the foundational principles of my life—that human connection can rewire history and change the future, opening up new and unexpected possibilities for everyone.

As I reflect on how this relates to our remarriage celebration, it is this last point where it all comes together. The morning after the party our daughter said to me, “Mom, everywhere I looked there were only lit-up, happy faces.” It was true. This day meant a lot to our families, to my mother, and most notably—to our daughter. While a remarriage is a lesser known kind of story (but not entirely unique either) the effect it has on others is at once healing and liberating. For me, all the years of separation do not go away, but—and this is the interesting part—they take on new meaning and purpose, as if they are entirely rewired. This is not rewriting history. That's different. It is like everything I thought was stone is now water. It's that different. What I felt was weakness is now strength. Regret, now gratitude. A story that once had few redeeming qualities can now be told in a way that uplifts. There are so many lessons in an imperfect life, and in the moment we let down our guard and reach into the hearts of others, especially when it's difficult or even impossible, the past instantly changes. For me, this is probably the most important discovery about life. Whether it is surrendering to a caregiving role without negotiation, reaching back to heal a broken relationship, reaching forward to start a new relationship, embarking on a new career, or whatever it may be, we do have within us the capacity to turn the tables of our lives and rewire, not re-write, our history. It is truly a magical discovery. 

Ali, me, Bob and Olof: A remarriage celebration
Ali (our daughter), me, Bob, and Olof (Ali's boyfriend). More pix!

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