"Parenthood": Life goes on

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched the season finale of “Parenthood” and want to, don’t read this yet!

As a busy mom who also works outside the home, most of my television viewing is escapist--trying to help me forget the busyness of my everyday life. Except for “Parenthood.”

The storyline of this poignant (though underrated) family drama often cuts close to home, if not for me personally, for someone in my circle of family or friends. Young moms with cancer. Career struggles. Aging parents. Adoption ups and downs. Marital stress. Kids with special needs.

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“You’re not alone,” the show seemed to imply with each episode. “All families go through this stuff.”

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Fans--myself included--kept coming back for six seasons because--if not in spite of--the fact “Parenthood” often left us weeping.  

The finale certainly delivered in that respect. The death of patriarch Zeek Braverman couldn’t have come as a surprise, since much of the final season had been devoted to his heart troubles and decision to forgo surgery that might extend his life.

But it wasn’t the grief of loss that had me sobbing as I watched the finale. It was the new life, the resurrections.

A new baby, by birth for Amber, through adoption for Joel and Julia. A new marriage, for Sarah and Hank, and a reborn one, for Joel and Julia. A new dream for Adam, and the courage to pursue an old one, for Crosby. Through a series of “flash-forwards” at the end, everyone seems to move on with life, from widowed Camille to the ex-GI Ryan, father of Amber’s baby.

The finale was titled, “May God Bless You and Keep You Always” (from the “Forever Young” theme song), but “Parenthood” was not an overtly religious show. It never portrayed the Bravermans going to church or even praying, not even during Kristina’s bout with breast cancer.

Still, if ever there were a show about “family values,” this is it.  Prolife Catholics were understandably upset with an episode in Season 4, in which teenage Drew’s girlfriend gets pregnant and decides to have an abortion, although the writers did portray Drew as objecting to her decision. And when Drew’s sister faces an unplanned pregnancy two seasons later, she chooses life for her baby, despite financial and other struggles.

But in hundreds of other ways, “Parenthood” was pro-family and pro-life. Despite hardships and disagreements, the unconditional love of family was always there.  And as someone whose spirituality often has to be squeezed in between the kids’ homework and bathtime, I appreciated a show that celebrated the power of everyday moments to be sacred.

“Boy, we did good, didn't we?" Zeek says to his wife, beaming at his family during his daughter’s wedding. It turns out to be his final words in the episode, but Zeek lives on, and not just in his namesake great-grandson.

His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren carry on his commitment to family, his love and support, his patience and generosity. A flash-forward with Adam and Kristina at the two ends of a long dinner table echos so many family dinners with Zeek and Camille in those spots.

As “Parenthood’s” touching finale portrayed, life goes on in those we leave behind. With the show’s end, viewers will no longer get their weekly dose of Braverman family drama, but it left us with an inspiring message that echoes the Christian one: new life can come out of death.


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