When the Final Whistle Blows

There are no happy endings. 

Endings are the saddest part,

So just give me a happy middle

And a very happy start.                                         -Shel Silverstein

“He’s done,” the distraught mother cried. “He is totally done.”

We all watched the impact that ended things for her senior hockey player. He had been checked into the boards violently and when he stood to skate off, the way his arm dangled, we all knew. The trainer was confident he had broken his collar bone, and as the crying mom sought comfort from her friend whose son had just gone through the same recovery, they talked about the details of slings and sleeping and pain meds. They didn’t have to mention the hardest part of all of it and the real reason she was overcome with sadness: he had just ended his final season and he wouldn’t be back on the ice to play with his team…ever again. It was not the ending she had hoped for him, and not the experience she had hoped for herself either.

I wrote about the challenges of parenting senior athletes in a recent post, and I’m still not through the tough stuff that arrives every morning when I contemplate the lasts we are living with our middle daughter. But this scene of a stark ending made me pause. Endings are hard. I don’t want to ignore the sadness, but I don’t want to wallow too much there either.

We say feel-good movies have “happy endings” but that isn’t really true. “Happy ending” movies show a final scene that is the gloriously happy beginning to the rest of the story. Real-life endings rarely feel like that, but with good emotional work, we can find hope in the hard stuff and create joy around stepping into the next chapter. Because there is always a next chapter.

Sudden endings are among the hardest. In the context of sporting events, we forget to listen to the final whistle when it is an injury or something else that cuts a season or a career short. There are usually plenty of expectations that will be disappointed when it all stops suddenly. Sudden endings are awful, truly. There is no way to prepare for them and it takes a while to orient in a way that vision for the next is even possible.

The long-anticipated endings are not all that easy either. An ending is an ending is an ending and once you’ve experienced any kind of actual ending in life, it is perfectly human and acceptable to want to avoid them.

Don’t. Face them head on.

Let the emotions wash over you and through you. Think about how you are feeling, wonder about why the feelings are big enough to change the way you stand or sit or talk. Do this especially when you are emoting at your kids’ games. Your behavior at games can be like a vivid dream that sticks with you long after you awake in the morning. If you pay attention, you will notice the places you need to self-reflect, the work you should put in, the surprising ways you need to change and grow. Don’t just ignore when you are feeling overwhelmed. Pick apart the feelings that arrive, feel them, and then decide to let go of those that will not serve you as you look for the new beginning. There is always a new beginning.

Maybe that’s the biggest difference between the first-time-senior-mom experience and the second-time-senior-mom experience I am navigating currently. I have a better vision for the next chapter, even if the details are still a little fuzzy, I am actively seeking a very happy start even though this chapter is ending.

Copyright Meagan Frank 2020

The Team Adult Playbook



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