cycle of lifeI hugged my eldest son, Christy, two weeks ago, probably for the first time. He was about to disappear through the departure gates to board a flight to Dubai and begin a new chapter of his life with Emirate Airlines. Grown men don’t often embrace but we both knew this was one of the occasions when we did. The relationship we had known to that point of our lives, as father and son, was probably never going to be the same again.

And so the cycle of life turns.

As I drove home my mind scanned back to a comparable moment in my life 34 years earlier. Only on that occasion the roles were reversed. I was on the deck of a ferry about to leave the port in Dublin for Liverpool and my two parents were on the quayside frantically waving me away. I was heading off to a new world, a 7 year architecture course at Liverpool University. In our hearts all 3 of us knew that night was the beginning of an end. I was about to make the transformation from being one of their dependents, to taking charge of what the rest of my life would be.

I remained out on deck as the ship pulled away. I stayed until my father and mother had diminished to two tiny specs at the railings of the ferryport. I was still waving back frantically. My mind was trying to retain their image as long as it possibly could because it knew the next time I would see them everything would have changed. The cycle of life was about to turn. And it had taken 34 years, when it had turned again, for me to know exactly how they felt that night. I was about the same age as Christy which is I think why my mind was so quick to resurrect the memory as a point of reference.

Major partings in our lives are always tinged with sadness but I still love the cycle of life. And I know that cycle turns down just as much as it turns up. But change is still essentially good for us. It brings challenges but it also brings newness and freshness. It whets our appetite for life all over again. That is why we love to travel. Travel is the greatest form of change of all. And life itself is no more than a permanent journey with each day bringing a host of new little mini-destinations. I love waking up every morning with the light of a new day gradually overpowering the resistance of my bedroom window blinds. I love that daily renewed anticipation of what another 24 hours of life will bring. I love the skies and the mountains and the rivers and the birds. I love the people that I meet. I love this wonderful planet that I have been given to live on.

I love my life.

I am very grateful for that life and the ability to be able to do things with it. I didn’t appreciate all the wonderful things my 10 fingers did every day until I was lying in intensive care without the use of them. And they were just the simple things like scratching my nose, brushing my teeth or lifting a cup of coffee to my lips. Up to then they were practically invisible and the complaints department was only concerned with the coffee being too hot, or too cold, or the toothbrush was old and worn. Now, with the benefit of a variety of turns on the cycle of life I could see there was nothing to complain about. The only thing to see was what an amazing gift those hands and fingers had been.

So just as I departed from my parents to forge my own life, so did my son from me. And so hopefully, will his children from him. The world will go on. And each one of us is a very small part of it as it goes on. This planet is a vast complexity of amazement and our contribution is very small. We are all replaceable. We will all be replaced. While we are here it is not the cycle that is important, but the life itself.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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