by Maxine Lyons
~ Growth takes many forms and like other Jewish seekers, I rely on the life-cycle events to provide a framework for growth, celebrating nature and new life, knowing that to everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. I started this year’s Elul preparation in June, with conscious gratitude for the experience of becoming a grandmother for the first time in my 70’s and ready to welcome a second grandbaby due to arrive before Rosh Hashanah.
Through my work as a professional educator with older adults for several decades, I have cultivated a positive approach to growing older and now more than ever, I am responding to the passage of time with excitement. This season offers me a clear purpose and a time to review my life.
As a new year approaches, being with my precious grandson and looking into his eyes helps me reflect with wonder, curiosity and hope as I imagine what my grandchildren will become and how they will grow and express themselves. The uplifting side of having grandchildren later in life is feeling deeper gratitude for life; likewise, I feel the sadness of knowing that there will be many life-cycle events that I will not be there to participate in over the coming years.
In the spirit of Elul, a time of renewal and meaningful “turning,” I am committed to grow and change along with these two new babies. For years I have used my gardens as a measure of growth, learning about change and renewal from the forgiving nature of my gardens which have lived through the harshness of winter to become emerging sprouts in the spring and then flowering with colorful life in summertime. I have also measured my personal growth by my own subjective standards, asking myself, am I growing into a more empathic and caring person? Does my growth enhance the lives of my dear ones and many others?
The growth of a totally dependent child creates generational continuity with his parents and grandparents; this intergenerational connection strengthens my relationships among all my loved ones. I believe that as our children become parents and grow their own families, they are carrying on the ancestral heritage of their past as well as forging a new and vibrant future.
These reflections deepen my practice of seeing and naming blessings that honors the continuity of life, change and growth. Interdependence of close family ties parallels the interdependence of gardens that require enriched soil and responsible caretaking by us gardeners to ensure that our flowers, shrubs and vegetables flourish.
Our children were once saplings and have become more securely planted, branching out with their own rituals and practices that are meaningful to them. They were nourished with love and aspirations. They are the seeds that are now producing their own saplings. My fervent hope is that they will offer their sheltering arms, ripeness, and growth for future generations to come. May we, the parents and grandparents support their growth with clear values, well-intentioned activism, and limitless tikvah.
Rosh Hashanah represents the beauty of renewal (hadesh yamenu k’kedem), returning us again and again to the opportunity to renew spiritual values. My hope is that we will experience true growth of our personhood and offer our lives as worthy legacies to pass on to our children and grandchildren.
Maxine Lyons, retired for several years as an educator, has been enjoying studying both Mussar and other Jewish teachings as well as Buddhism in a “garden sangha” in Newton following the practice of Thich Nhat Hanh. She is also actively involved with interfaith spirituality through Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries. Her new life’s role presently is learning to be a grandma to Judah as she awaits the birth of her second grandchild in CA.