Abigael called me as she walking down the street of downtown Eugene and as soon as I picked up, I could her the delight in her voice. I don’t remember where she was walking to, but she had forgotten the food she prepared at home, and was hungry. All of a sudden, on that city street, a ripe, beautiful apple was right in front of her on a tree. She plucked it, polished it up and then ate what she described to me as “the best apple she had ever eaten”. It was crispy but so juicy that she was sticky from eating it.
She was trying to find her passion in life, and had saved up what seemed me such a small amount of money to move completely across the country. She worked here and there, but didn’t have a steady stream of income and I worried about her lack of resources. It drove me CRAZY, and I would call to suggest career paths (nanny, au pair, electrician school, why not finish your degree, dog walker, GO BACK TO SCHOOL) to turn on a stream of income that would make ME feel more comfortable about her living so far away, where I could not nourish her with a meal or wash and fold her clothes and make sure she had underwear and socks that weren’t falling apart.
That mothering instinct in me to ensure that she had enough money and stuff to keep her “okay” drove her crazy, and it was a source of tension between us. I wanted her life to look and feel stable to ME while she was redefining and discovering exactly what she needed, what was extra, and what brought her joy.
When she called to tell me about that perfect apple, she squealed with glee and explained that living with a mindset of abundance had changed her and her perspective. Instead of stewing and grumbling and allowing her thoughts to remind her of the carefully prepared veggie wrap sitting on a counter a mile away, she was able to tip her face to the sun, let the breeze blow her hair around, and not be so distracted by what she was missing out on that she was unable to see the gift right in front of her—that apple. She believed that she would receive all the she needed and desired from this world, because it was boundless.
It was purposeful, this trust that her needs would be met, that beauty would present itself, that there was enough of everything important to go around and that it was only a matter of being open to seeing those gifts to receive them. She would often encourage me to practice an “abundance mindset” in our conversations. When Covid-19 first reared its ugly head, she and I were catching up on the phone and I was explaining the unrecognizable conditions in which we were now living because she lived on a farm in rural New Mexico propagating plants, and had heard next to nothing.
I lamented everything that her sisters were missing out on, and how abruptly my life had changed. The list of “no mores” was long, and instead of the empathy I expected, she reacted with such excitement! No extracurricular activities? What an opportunity to try something new! What a great way to be creative, just for expression and not for consumption by others. What an awesome chance to really immerse into this world, to get out of buildings and into nature. What a great time to unplug and turn inward and stop being so damn busy.
For every first world, middle class problem I rattled off to her, she responded with an opportunity. It was all about maintaining an abundance mindset, she assured me. So many gifts always right in front of us that we are too distracted to see. I would chuckle a little at the confidence of youth, maybe roll my eyes a little at her emphatic lessons she was sharing, in the way that people do when they think they have a lot of things about life “figured out”.
And then, five months ago, she died. Tragically, unexpectedly. And it turned out that no stream of income, no career path, no house or car or brand new underwear or socks could have stopped that from happening. No amount of stuff would have prevented her from seizing the opportunity to swim in a beautiful river on a lovely summer evening.
And oddly, when we lost her, I saw incredible beauty that I hadn’t known existed; I saw capacity for love and selflessness in people that I had never witnessed before. The abundance of love that rained over me and my family truly shocked and overwhelmed me. Because I didn’t know. I couldn’t see it. I hadn’t needed to. I thought of our family as cogs in the wheel of life. I couldn’t comprehend the ways that each of us had made impacts in our individual and collective circles, the ways those impacts rippled out and the way we had been sowing seeds that would bear abundant fruit exactly at the time we needed it.
Now we are smack dab in the midst of the holiday season and its garish display of abundance can feel like an affront to me. I have to carefully discern and measure out exactly how much holiday cheer I can emotionally handle as I navigate the pain of this first Christmas, of all the rest of my Christmases, without her.
I know I am not alone in feeling a sense of loss this season. No restaurants for annual friend get togethers, no ugly sweater parties, no office dinners, no white elephants with cousins from two states over, no parties at school, no last day at the office before the break. I see the lamenting on social media and I hear my friends frustration with life being unrecognizable.
And I can’t help but wonder how Abigael would respond to every one of these changes.
- No big shopping day or less money to spend this year? What a great opportunity to pare down and make the holidays less commercial.
- No parties to go to? What a chance to spend time with your core group, deepening relationships and meaningful connections.
- No restaurants? Cool! You can spend time learning or perfecting soups and stews to drop on the porches of neighbors, acquaintances, friends.
- No big gatherings? This might be the only year for one to simply sit, be, and reflect exactly what this time of year is really about for them. This is maybe the one chance to get off the hamster wheel of stress, busyness, planning, going, going, going. This could be the time to really hone in on what matters at this time of year when it is typically sensory overload. Where do choose for your holiday focus to be?
I am missing Abigael with every cell in my being. So, I am choosing to relentlessly pursue the abundance mindset. It would be easy to let the missing completely overtake me, I could sink into only feeling the acute pain of what (who) I am without.
I didn’t have the best relationship with Christmas before Abigael’s death. The holidays, in the before time, were a time when I would be typically running from brunch to an ugly sweater party, with shopping in the middle of that, while also making homemade granolas and cookies and extravagant spreads. Oh and squeeze in forced smile family photos to mail out to 100 people.
I was exhausted. I was frazzled. I was irritable. I was stressed out. There was very little time for quiet and reflection.
Now, in this strangest and saddest of times, I see so clearly what was right in front of me all those frazzled years. I have my beloved, my husband and we cling to each other. I have amazing, beautiful, unique daughters who I cherish to cultivate deep and important connections with. I have friends that take me as the mess that I am. I have really beautiful relationships abundant with love and respect. And now, this year with its forced solitude, I have the time and the space to sit and reflect, to really think about Abigael and our relationship, all that she taught me, the way she impacted my life, and the gifts she brought to our family. I have the time to treasure 22 years of memories and to practice loving her in this new, uncharted way.
These relationships that are my lifeblood, are the ones that got pushed to the side to make room for everything else that took up space during the holidays. But THESE, these are my abundant harvest. These are the gifts that sustain me. And there are no limits or scarcity in the way that the abundance continues to grow in my life, the way that I choose to nurture it moving forward. I don’t pack it away on January 2.
This abundance is mine today, on Christmas Day, throughout the holidays, and for the rest of my days. Because I choose to see it. Because I choose to be grateful for the magic it brings to my life. Because I claim it and hold it close. Because I choose to let it be enough. I will be eternally grateful to Abigael and her 22 year old joyful, adventurous wisdom, for she opened my eyes to seeing it. Her death lifted a veil that shined light on this–this extravagant gift of abundance that I will never take for granted again.