Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There’s a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
-Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”
It’s been a whirlwind of a week. We’ve watched two kids graduate. Damon landed a new job. We are contemplating a move to a new state. We’re saying Aloha – hello and goodbye – to everyone we see, everywhere we look. And this ping-pong of emotions – from happy to sad, eager to melancholic, excited to unbearable, has left all seven of us Kirk’s exhausted and at a loss for words.
I keep thinking back to the four times I’ve been in the hospital with a brand new baby. I’ve felt delighted, scared, shaky, rashy, giddy, relieved, nervous, and overwhelmed with every breath. I’ve held my baby, or babies, and thought, “Well, hello there! I’ve waited so long to meet you, little one! Hello, hello, hello. Aren’t you perfect? Yet somehow so ‘you’ already, not what I pictured at all! Isn’t that amazing? Now here you are, and I love you desperately even though I’ve only known you for seconds. I’m going to hold you forever and never let you go!”
Then they roll you to a semi-private room where visitors appear. Pictures are snapped even while your stomach is manipulated and your IV adjusted. You attempt to feed your baby and are mystified by how unnatural it seems, how clumsy you both are together. You wonder how mankind continually survives the sheer turmoil and energy a baby entails.  Until finally a night nurse appears at your bedside to ask whether to take your baby to the nursery for the night and you sob with relief.  “Yes, please. Take her!”  you gush, giddy and guilty in the same breath, practically throwing your fresh little bundle into her arms. All you can think of is closing your eyes, two hours of rest. “Good-bye, little one….Come back in a bit.” Aloha, baby.
English does not contain one word that encapsulates all of these emotions as they wash over you simultaneously like a huge wave. No single word captures the feeling you have as you sit in the broiling sun waiting for your son or daughter to appear at their school’s promotion and someone’s thirty-dollar balloon bouquet twirls into the air long before the graduates have even appeared on the field. This happened this morning at my son’s school, while an entire sea of parents gasped in horror and watched the bouquet silently blow away. The colorful words, “Congrats! Graduate, 2011” bobbed in and out among the clouds like a child’s brightly colored sailboat peeking through the bubbles in the tub.  “There they go,” I mused sadly. “What a sad yet cheerful sight.” I wanted to stand up and shout, “Who knew a balloon bouquet could be so prophetic? Whether we like it or not, long before we’re ready, our children are up, up, and away!” Aloha, son.
The Japanese have a word that sums up these beautiful, yet imperfect moments where life engulfs us in a dizzying display of growth and decay simultaneously: wabi sabi. No word in English so succinctly acknowledges that nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. And therein lies the beauty. The cracks are where the light seeps in.
Life is full of balloons taking flight before we’ve let them go.  Life is full of stops and starts, new beginnings and painful goodbyes. A commencement ceremony is the public acknowledgement of this. We gather together, under the broiling sun, with cameras and balloons and flowers, to say aloha, and make sure our kids know that aloha doesn’t just mean hello and goodbye. It also means love. And so we clap and tread water for just a moment, hugging them close before they go swirling away on a rising tide. Aloha, Wabi Sabi.