Yesterday morning at 5:00 a.m., I opened the door and my feet touched the bare pavement. The cold ground provided its own greeting, comfort and startle climbed on my skin as I gazed at the sky. A calm silence enveloped my body. I took a deep breath, sinking into the earth’s embrace and made a mental note of how I felt at this precise moment. The word “welcome” flashed in my head like a neon sign. I let this particular word take hold and let my mind linger on the soundtrack of welcomes that garnish my day. An important part of my morning is my daughter’s greeting in the early hours, the thump of her feet landing on the carpet and her internal GPS looking for one destination, her mother. Depending on her mood, she will grab me and offer a hug or complain that she is tired and wants to go back to bed. But always, there is an acknowledgement, her personalized welcome is an ordinary, but essential part of my commencement of weekdays and weekends.

Aren’t all welcomes just as precious? My mom and I talk everyday in the morning and if our conversation is pushed to the afternoon, she notices and says, “I didn’t hear from you earlier today.” She’s dependent on this welcome as much as I am. There are other welcomes too. The taste of warm morning coffee on my lips. My husband’s good morning kiss. The sound of my computer as soon as I press the button. The lacing of my tennis shoes before I embark on a run. A “good morning” to the stranger, whose path I cross as I run past him on the sidewalk. My life is entrenched in these ordinary welcomes. If I miss one, the tilt of the day takes on a different tint. My morning continues, but there is a sense that not everything is the way it should be.

The pageant of welcomes bleed into the day, with the afternoon passing and evening raising its head to take its turn. On the same day of my morning welcome, I captured a shot of the sun setting, the spectacular glowing of the pinks and blues, the haze of purple accentuating the brilliance of the sky. This everyday portrait of the sun setting in the desert convinces me to think about the parade of goodbyes that litter our lives. Some goodbyes take on more significance, while others are more ordinary. I think of drop-off’s with my daughter at school. In her “younger” days, she insisted that I walk into the building, in her classroom and give her a million kisses and hugs before school began. Sometimes she raced outside the door to catch me one more time, afraid that my leaving happened too fast. Those farewells are becoming less and less. Now, I am lucky if I receive a wave as I exit. She prefers that I not kiss her cheek in front of her friends, the embarrassment registers on her face if I hint at a possible maneuver toward her face.

Some goodbyes I conjure on a second’s notice. There are endings that I failed to realize were farewells as they occurred, but in retrospect I learned, that sometimes certain goodbyes are permanent as they are happening. My last words to my father, “I love you, Dad” happened as I departed my childhood home. The next time I saw him the farewell morphed to a one-sided conversation where I said the words, “But Dad, you left too soon. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.”

There are other goodbyes too. Tucking my daughter into her bed at night. Reading a book. Cuddling under the blankets. Clicking the light off. Listening to my breath as I fall asleep. These endings appear as a bookend to my day.

As I revisit the picture of the sunset, I am struck by one thought: The pageant of welcomes and goodbyes weave in and out of my day.

It is this that shapes my life.