I was standing at the pharmacy counter, with a very helpful employee, who was doing her best to explain why my anti-depressant was now going to cost thousands of dollars. As she went through the insurance information and faxed my doctor, my body decided it would be a good time to have a full-on hot flash. I took off as many layers as was reasonable and then looked around for something to keep my face from turning bright red. As fate would have it, they keep the inspirational kiosk right by the pharmacy counter, so I grabbed a leather bound Bible and used it to fan my face. The young woman helping me looked very concerned. I tried to ease her worry by saying, “Nothing to see here! I’m just using a Bible to cure a hot flash!” She quickly scurried away to find someone else who could help the sweaty woman who needed her meds. As I stood there and waited, fanning myself and feeling self-conscious about how crazy I looked, I remembered how often my wonderful grandmother would say to me, “This too shall pass.” She never said it in a dismissive way, but rather with assurance and foresight. I found the memory of her saying this in her genteel, Southern way so comforting in that moment—in part because my grandmother always told me the truth.
But it was more than that: I also trust that “this too shall pass” because I’ve experienced it in my life.
The good, the bad and the ugly—they all pass.
There’s an old hymn I love that states, “Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all who breathe away.” I feel this verse in my bones. It’s not even in a somber way; it’s more like a recognition of shared experience. It’s an acknowledgement of momentum.
My husband and I both turned fifty this month and I’ve been feeling especially nostalgic lately. Even during last week’s Ash Wednesday service, I thought back to the times I led services as a campus minister and times that I screeched into church for the imposition of ashes before I had to get our kids from preschool. I remembered how hard some of the services were when grief was raw and the words, “You are dust and to dust you shall return” felt painful. I mostly thought about the Ash Wednesday service three years ago, just before the pandemic hit, when our son Caleb called us on our way to the church and told us that he had been admitted to University of Michigan’s musical theater program. The emotion in his voice scared me at first and then he said, “Sorry—it’s good news. It’s just that this is a moment we’ll always remember.”
It’s such a gift when you can recognize the importance of a moment in real time. Most things solidify later, when you realize how a single conversation changed everything or how a person in your life was placed there at the exact right time.
It feels like that phone call from Caleb was decades ago. So much has shifted in our family and in the world. All of the changes can make me feel dizzy. The only way I know how to feel grounded sometimes is to remember that I get to assign the weight that memories, events and transitions get to carry.
The good I tuck into my heart; the bad I learn from; the ugly I chalk up to the messiness of simply being human.
Because if it’s all going to pass, which I truly believe, then I don’t want to feel like any experience is ever wasted. Even in the midst of my wacky pharmacy situation, I was so thankful for the nice employees who were all trying to help me and for my grandmother’s wisdom and for well-placed Bibles. Although I left without my medicine that day, I’ll go back this week and figure it out. And, this time, I’ll bring my own fan.
Anna— this was so wonderful!
I am laughing and crying at the same time! I turned 50 in January, and I totally get you. Thank you for helping me to identify and accept my feelings and for sharing your stories.