A friend recently told me that the human body regrows every cell within seven years. As March approaches, yet again, with a large flashing seven over the 18th, the day of Dad’s death, I started to wonder, “Has every part of me replaced itself since that day?”
A quick Google search helped me conclude, it depends. Some cells re-grow quickly. Those found in human hearts are said to lag. And in our brains, some cells never replace themselves. More on the science here.
Head. Heart. Body. Three domains we will live and experience the world in. I’m comforted by the fact that cells still in my heart were around when Dad was still with us. And in neurons and tissues in my head, memories linger for a life time.
There’s that old Gershwin tune, reflecting on lost love:
“We may never never meet again, on that bumpy road to love
Still I’ll always, always keep the memory of
The way you hold your knife
The way we danced till three
The way you changed my life
No, no they can’t take that away from me
No, they can’t take that away from me.”
Sure, this was meant as a love ballad, but for me, I’m starting to worry about the things that seep away as we keep moving forward.
Skeletons take eleven years to regenerate. Parts of my bones still know him. And the metaphors we humans use to try and comprehend our human experience sink into my essence and pass on to my daughter.
She has eye balls and ear balls. That’s what Papa would have told her. Those eyeballs take on the shape of her grandfathers.
We carry in our bodies living systems of memories and wants and aches and our humanity. And when pieces of that human experience get lost, we turn our attention to what we can grow instead. Why must transition be so ladened with sadness? Why do we focus on what can be created to fill in the gaps?
In a recent coaching session, my coach asked “What if you can hold both? The grief and the growth?”
A strong image came to me of a small sunflower, bravely lifting a heavy center surrounded by pedals unfurling. The flower turn its head a different direction. The sun isn’t over there anymore, I thought.
In order to hold both, in my little growing pot, I need to turn my head to a new source of sun.
I’m growing, regenerating, creating life and seeking nutrients. And still, pieces of me remain the same.
I suppose the both-and is a beautiful place to be. A lagging heart. A brain that holds memories. All beautiful things.