In Memory of –
This is a strange holiday for me. It’s not strange in the sense that I don’t understand it or think it necessary but strange because I did not serve in the armed services nor lost a loved one while in military service. I don’t know what it’s like to charge up a hill with my unit, share foxholes with people who I depend on for my life, find the courage to carry out orders that put my life and others in danger and know not everyone is coming back from the mission. I don’t know what it is to get a knock on my door, a phone call, by servicemen or women to inform me a loved is not returning home. I can’t imagine the pain, heartache, loss, or pride that comes with Memorial Day.
I once served on a staff with a war veteran and we liked to talk politics, history, and war. He had seen action in the military while I sat in the safety of a university classroom. We’d have conversations about the justifications of war. I’d voice my opinion that Christians should follow Jesus’ example and be pacifists, opposed to all violence and then he’d tell me when and why I was wrong. I didn’t agree with everything he said about the military, nation-building, and protection but I was also humbled and silent as he spoke. I understood that he had served, put his life on the line for us to disagree and still be friends, still call ourselves by the same name; Americans.
“The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Blessings & Thank you,
Soul Alive –
Outside, under our two sheds and front porch are families of rabbits. I see them when I let out the dog, who’s too old to chase them anymore, when I drive the truck into the driveway, when I sit still long enough and wait for them to emerge from their hiding holes. It excites me. Wildlife has always had this impact on me. I slow down to look at deer on the sides of the highway or in far-off fields. Stare at Falcons and Hawks perched on fence posts or electric poles. Turkeys, skunks, opossum, armadillos, foxes, even cows grab my attention.
I grew up in the suburbs but my parents took us to National Parks as often as the could. We loved camping, canoeing, hiking, exploring. We saw lots of wildlife and even had a few run-ins with Black Bears. I believe this is where my love of nature was born and raised along with the important lessons of treating it gently, basking in its beauty and always leaving a place better than you found it.
Nature, along with other gifts we take for granted each day, bring life to my soul. I can’t imagine not being excited, filled with joy, while experiencing it.
The sun, which shone so brightly the last couple of days filling my spirit and mind with images of spring, is gone today, replaced by gray, gloomy clouds. My wife’s flu bug which bit her last week seems to have been squished and she’s on the mend. The weekend is winding down and soon a new week will start.
I commented to a friend today about a photograph taken about 4 years ago that; “sometimes it seems long ago and other times yesterday.” I think that’s life. When younger I was told; “time moves faster as you get older.” It didn’t make sense to me then but now, on the other side of the hill (midlife), it’s a boulder rolling faster and faster.
The present moment, where we long to continuously dwell, is the one place that brings thankfulness, humility, and acceptance. We are thankful because we are only “grass that whithers, blows away, and its place remembers it no more.” Every moment is precious, even the ones we’d rather not experience. We are humbled by the brevity of ourselves and the things around us. Nothing is permanent which we can touch, see, feel, hear, or taste. “All things are passing away.” By accepting this truth we can choose to consciously, deliberately, live leaving nothing unfinished, and embrace this flash of light we call being alive.
My friend, role-model, and father passed away early this morning a little after midnight. His fight was over and he was ready. He sat up one last time as if to say, “It’s my time. I’m coming home.”
The house seemed empty today when we returned from all the breathless running around one does after a loved one takes their final breath. Even though he hasn’t been home in a few weeks it seemed he had just left the house. Keys, hats, computers, movies, his chair all still in their proper place. It seems this is still his house, his home. But…it’s not. Sure, there are memories and experiences. A lifetime of highs and lows to relive for the rest of our time on this shadow side of eternity but he has moved and left a forwarding address.
I sit in the quietude with his presence still lingering. I think about all of the rough days he’s had over the last 8 months, the noises of the machines which were keeping him alive. After we received the phone call we drove over to the hospice house to say our; “Goodbyes.” The room was so still. No beeping, whirring, pumping, dripping, nurses checking in. It was motionless and the silence was deafening. My mother began to fill the atmosphere with soft cries, and soft words to her best friend and lover of the last 40 years. My brother and I standing in the background, witnesses to a heart affair which is rare in this world. Finally, after a few more kisses from her on his hands and cheek, we left all thankful we’d never see that room again and that he had moved on to his permanent address.
And now, we are left to carry on. To occupy a house which isn’t home without him. To learn to adjust to a new normal we didn’t choose. To loosen our grip on this world, this place, because we know home is waiting for us on the other side.
A friend contacted me with some disappointing news today. Nothing life changing but something I wanted to happen but didn’t.
It’s hard not to take disappointment personally, even when it isn’t meant to be. Disappointment has a way of worming itself down into our souls and whisper words of discouragement.
There’s nothing wrong with being disappointed when you have wanted something to, or not to, happen but its imperative that you don’t stay too long. Being in the dark place of disappointment can lead to despair. De·spair dəˈsper/ noun 1. the complete loss or absence of hope. This is where we don’t want to be led by disappointment and discouragement.
It’s okay to be down for a while but sooner rather than later you must let go of both the thing you wanted and the discouragement of not attaining it. This is often much easier said, written, than doing but allowing the spirit to settle, the voices of disappointment to silence, and the realization that you are alive, on the path and disappointments, like everything else, fade when you live presently.
Lack of Information –
The last few weeks I have been dealing with a situation of which I have a limited amount of information. In fact, I’ve had enough information to make one decision or another without knowing how it’s going to work out in the end. It’s a difficult place to be and an even harder place to stay and find peace. It’s nothing life threatening though it could have life-altering consequences.
Situations such as this one can be the source of stress, ruminations and endless supplies of; “What ifs…?” However, I have found myself embracing the moment and repeating a wisdom quote; “If this happens you’re still breathing, still alive, still on the journey of your life. If that happens…same.”
It reminds me of the proverb;
“When confused; chop wood, eat your dinner, sleep.
When enlightened; chop wood, eat your dinner, sleep.”
It’s hard to be in those places of uncertainty as we walk along the path but sometimes it cannot be avoided. So, I place one foot in front of the other and know sooner or later the way will become clear.
This morning I had an early appointment so fixed my breakfast to go. I like cereal but not milk so I put some bran flakes in a cup, mixed in raisins and was ready. I even put a top on the cup of cereal so I wouldn’t spill it. I hopped in the truck and was on my way. When I made it to the highway and would be going straight without turning, I popped open the tabs on my coffee cup and drank and reached down, carefully took the lid off the cereal and then lifted it up to begin munching on my homemade raisin bran. As I did I caught the top of the cup on the lip of the cover of the console between the seats. Before I knew it the cup had been knocked out of my hand, landed side ways between the seats, spilling the cereal underneath my seat. There was barely any left to eat. Sigh. So much for breakfast.
As I continued driving to my appointment the growl in my stomach was ferocious but didn’t have time to stop and grab a bite anywhere. I drank my coffee which helped and by the time I arrived at my location I had nearly forgotten the mess of the spilled cereal.
Life is about learning to let go of things we care about. It’s about dealing with and accepting that even those things which we take great care of are still, one day or moment, going to slip through our fingers. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”
The question becomes; “Can we let go when the time comes? Are we able to continue to travel the path even with grief and loss? Do we understand that losing control, our grip, on the things we treasure is part of the necessary experiences that allow us to fully be and feel alive?”