On Passing Things

Last week I wrote about my home of four years. I haven’t lived in one home (or with the same housemates) for such a period of time since my childhood. I know all of the streets in our neighborhood, including Osceola with its original cobblestones and Lincoln with my favorite porch in St. Paul. I can name each of the women upstairs by the sounds of their footsteps. I know the fire code requirements for all of our rooms, because I’ve fought with our landlord over them. Now I’ve moved out of the house, and that intimate knowledge begins its quiet passage into the recesses of old memories.

The upper unit of our duplex had been occupied by women from St. Thomas’ Catholic Studies program for at least a decade. I moved into the lower unit with a group of four men in 2014. Before us, the women had referred to the house as the “Milton Manor” (it was located on South Milton Street), but after the guys moved in, I pushed for a renaming. The house became known as “The Station,” short for “The Cohabitation Station.” Though some of the women initially pushed back on the name, it stuck.

And The Station developed a reputation in our community. I’d frequently meet young Catholics in our area and, a little into the conversation, they’d say, “Don’t you live in that house… What’s it called?”

“The Station?” I’d ask.

“Yeah! The Station.”

We frequently hosted dinners, parties, wine on the porch, book clubs, writing workshops, and a mishmash of quirky personalities. This week, I moved out of the house and began a new time in a new home (name TBA).

Last week’s post, “My House, My Beloved” is probably one of my favorites. It’s hard to describe my 4 years in the house. The Station’s been such a deep part of my identity, and has been a place where I’ve experienced grief, suffering, growth, love, friendship, community, and immense joy. While many of my friends have centered their lives and made decisions around their careers and romantic relationships, I’d chosen to center my identity and decision-making around this community.

I struggle with the change, but I think back to the words of one of my college professors, David Solomon: “A flower is meant to bloom for a time.” The fact that it fades and passes away doesn’t make it any less beautiful or real. It just makes it a flower. A beauty that passes is still beautiful, and it lives on in what is borne through those who have loved it.

When I think about what I’ll miss most, it’s definitely the people. We’re all so different, but somehow these relationships have become less like occupants of adjoining rooms and more like family. We fight and argue and disagree and frustrate each other, but we also love each other and refuse to give up on one another. We know each other too well to hide our feelings, good or bad. I’ll always look back with gratitude on the time we’ve spent together and the ways these people have changed me.

If we can’t love the passing things, how can we confront our own humanity? One of my old housemates, during a walk in the fall, commented on the changing and falling leaves: “It’s like creation is telling us that all things are passing.” Our lived time together has passed like those leaves, fallen underfoot and decomposing in the soil for the nourishment of another life.

Man was not made of alabaster. We weren’t made for museums (or Instagram accounts). We all struggle with the temptation to embalm the good things in our lives. But we can only embalm the dead. To live is to change, says Newman; in another world it may be otherwise. In that other world I will be thankful for the things that remain. But for now I will love and grieve the things that are passing, and remember them in the hope of what may be.

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