Susan Steen (2)


“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” ― T.S. Eliot

It’s the end. Maybe it’s the end of the month, the end of summer, the end of preschool, the end of third grade, the end of high school, the end of schooling in general, the end of a person’s life, the end of a relationship, the end of making car payments or house payments or student loan payments.

It could be the end of our independence or the end of our dependence on someone else. There are endings everywhere — even a loaf of bread has a beautiful end called the heel that signifies a tasty loaf of bread to follow. That is the hope we can draw from Eliot’s words — that endings might not always be what we want, but every ending offers a new beginning.

It’s one of my very favorite times of the year. It is a time of new beginnings. Whether you have children going to school or not, it is hard to miss the first day of school pictures friends share on social media or the back to school sales in stores. Maybe you have fond memories of the first day of the school year, or maybe you remember the dread and emotion of having to meet a new teacher and new classmates.

Wherever you find yourself in this season, it arrives every year and offers us an opportunity to revisit our own memories and sometimes be a part of someone else’s new memories being made. The smell of new crayons, the sight of new notebook paper, and, of course, a new lunch box, are all of the things that ending summer means to me when I think back just a few years ago.

Do you celebrate endings the way you do beginnings? We rejoice over a birth and cry over a death. We rave about a child’s first steps and try to not draw attention to the fact that a person can no longer use their legs.

What if we changed the way we approach endings, though? Anytime we begin to transition from one part of life to another, it is important to pay attention to the meaningfulness of the event or the events during that time. What were your best moments of that old job — you might have been fired or just retired, but before you celebrate the new job or the new phase of life, research from William Bridges shows it is important to celebrate the meaningful moments of where you have been, the endings.

Andrea Kihlstedt offers these suggestions for endings:

  • · If you organize a party, end it with a group toast or something special rather than just letting the guests fade away.
  • · When you develop an agenda for a meeting, don’t let it close with simply, “It’s time to adjourn.” Instead, find a way for each person to highlight something specific they are taking away from the meeting.
  • · If you go out to dinner with your friend or partner, find a way to end the evening on a high note. Perhaps sing a song together or take a moment to remember something special you’ve shared.

I love the idea of looking for ways to celebrate the endings, however small, in my life! If you’ve just lost someone who was a big part of your life, why not take the time to write down the things you are celebrating about that person.

Maybe your life will end in a particular home. I want to encourage you to make some notes about the memories you’ve made there. In 31 years of marriage, we’ve had some wonderful and funny moments. I want to write notes about them now so that when we are no longer here, our children will know what we celebrated. Maybe your marriage has ended. If it wasn’t always as awful as it was at the end, perhaps you can both take a little time to note the good times as you move on in different directions.

Once we take time to appreciate the ending moments, we can move to the new beginnings. That is so much easier than celebrating the endings, isn’t it? I feel as if I can take a breath just saying that. The joys of new beginnings are easier, I suppose. The empty room we get to decorate, the new calendar waiting for us to fill it with events and appointments, and the new relationships that offer the possibility of moments that will bring us joy. That is so exciting!

As wonderful as natural transitions are in life, it is when we intentionally choose to make a fresh start that we feel the most hopeful about what lies ahead. New Year’s Resolutions, deciding to create a new budget to save more money, choosing to join a company or a volunteer effort. We’ve celebrated the ending of one thing, and now we are allowed to embrace the possibilities in our new beginning.

Maybe we made mistakes where we were that we hope will not be repeated in our new place. Maybe we have finally weeded the garden and feel inspired to keep the new shoots pulled out more regularly. Whatever it is, the voice of who we were and how we were can be replaced with a new voice as we celebrate the end to make room for the new beginning.

Raising my glass to you, I offer a toast to the words we’ve shared, the lessons we’ve learned as we come to this closing. I would love to hear your thoughts on the best moments. I celebrate this year’s voice and language replacing that which came before. Until next week, thank you for being a part of my endings and beginnings.

Susan Steen can be contacted at

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