This, too, shall pass.
It is a reminder that we are likely to move beyond problems or things that bother us…that the only constant is change. It was a phrase my mother lived by. Since her passing, one of her dear friends (who is also my friend) has offered up this gentle reminder to me on a regular basis, always adding my mother’s initials behind it or saying “a wise person once told me…”
It is meaningful throughout life, but I find it is especially meaningful in dealing with my college-age daughter and her friends. Sometimes, things that happen in their lives seem like a big deal to them, but we, as older, more experienced adults, know things will get better, and the current situation will be long forgotten.
Those four words, “This, too, shall pass,” can be applied in lots of different instances…especially short-term annoyances…most illnesses, most disagreements, homesickness, heartbreak, or an unexpected difficult setback…and many more.
I went online to do a little research on the saying and found that Abraham Lincoln used a longer version of it in a speech at the Wisconsin State Fair in Milwaukee before he was elected President of the United States. According to abrahamlincolnonline.org, he recounted a tale of an Eastern monarch:
It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!
I especially love Lincoln’s observation…”How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction.”
Somewhere along the way, it became, “This, too, shall pass.” Words to live by, I suppose. Throughout my own life, because I heard it from my mother, and because I have the good fortune of still hearing it from her friend, I have found comfort in those four words. Or sometimes, I have been reminded to check myself! When my daughter was an infant and would not nap, I was exhausted all the time. Many times, I had to remind myself, “This, too, shall pass.” But even in good times, when she was snuggled up to me as an infant, I also had to remind myself that she wouldn’t want to do that forever. It helped me live in the moment.
Even as we enjoyed the glow of our home after our daughter arrived home for the Thanksgiving break yesterday, I had to remind myself that the moment would pass. She was excited to be home. She was excited to eat her favorite foods. She was excited to talk with us. We are still enjoying every moment, but tomorrow, she is going to visit a friend at another university for a couple of days before coming home for a few days and then, returning to her own university. This great joy we are experiencing is short-lived. It is a reminder to live in the moment!
The sadness we will experience after she leaves? Well, that will pass too, as soon as she calls us to share a funny story from school. We will still miss her, of course, but we will rejoice in her happiness, just as we suffer in her pain…like all good parents. Our daughter is a piece of our hearts living outside our bodies…we tend to feel what she feels. Its true empathy. I truly believe my own empathy grew after having my daughter…not just for her, but for others. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Now, I find myself sharing those words of wisdom with my daughter on a regular basis. Spending extra time studying for a difficult class? This, too, shall pass. Homesickness? This, too, shall pass. Freshman joy? This, too, shall pass. (Live in the moment.) Heartbreak? This, too, shall pass. Extreme sadness or happiness? This, too, shall pass. Even confusion about her own emotions…this, too, shall pass.
The only constant is change.
Personally, I tell myself “this, too, shall pass” on a regular basis. Even after each of my parents died, I knew the grief would never go away, but the immediate feelings of hopelessness would pass. The loneliness would pass. Eventually, good memories would take over. And I was right.
As the holidays approach, I find it especially meaningful. There are lots of emotions that accompany this time of year, not just for me, but for lots of people. I feel a sense of loss, because my parents are no longer here, and I lost my mother during the holidays. I also feel a sense of joy, knowing we will have our daughter under our roof for a while. Enjoy the good times as much as possible, because the high is temporary. Weather the bad ones…hang in there long enough, they will pass too.
Both emotions are temporary…
Even though she has been gone for five years, my mother’s four words still resonate in my mind, “This, too, shall pass.” They even helped me when I was deep in grief after she passed. Thankful for a sweet mom who shared her wisdom with me.