Some endings are arrivals at pleasant places, others are not

Some endings are arrivals at pleasant places, others are not
Never fails, I go off on a playful tangent when I see an empty shoe box or a cardboard wrapping paper roll, imagining new uses for them. Same thing happens when a container of oatmeal reaches its end.

Back in the day, repurposing empty containers was the work of my childhood. I created toys out of empty boxes, empty lozenge tins, empty coffee cans, and empty spools. These were my play stations.

Even today, I can't stop planning new beginnings for certain throwaways.

When you think of it, to reach an end – as in save that empty Jiffy peanut butter jar – can be a purposeful new start. Some endings really are arrivals at pleasant places: end of winter, end of illness, end of argument, end of storm, end of test, end of treatment, end of bad times.

Other types of endings, especially the ones that require planning, are difficult at best: end of paycheck, end of employment, end of marriage, end of life.

Take, for example, an afternoon in June 2005, when my mother called me here in South Dakota. This call was not our usual chat. It was more like an appointment that she couldn't break. Speaking to me from the phone in her semiprivate hospital room in Southern California, my mother didn't waste a breath.

She seemed to be in a bit of a hurry, racing through my life, scene by scene in headlines that all began with "Remember when ? ?" Most of what she had to say to me then is a blur to me now, except for two things: I was her best child. I did not disappoint her, except for that one time …

Stricken with urgency, her tone gushed with unrecognizable passion. I could only listen. Then, the appointment quickened to a hard stop as suddenly as it had started. Mom said that it was time for the nurse to draw blood and, well, she had to hang up. Stunned, I shrugged off the call. Days later, she quietly slipped away.

Some endings are arrivals at pleasant places. Others are more difficult.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her column writing has won first-place national and state awards in The Federation of Press Women competitions. For more information, e-mail

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