Secrets can destroy lives. Secrets can make enemies of friends. Secrets have a way of eating at us, not giving us any peace and taking over all we say and do. Yet, most of us still hold on to them for fear the secret being found out is worse than the misery it causes each day.
Several years ago I had a friend who was ready to leave his current job for a “better” one. We went out to eat and he laid all his grievances out about his current job. He disliked his occupation, didn’t agree with his boss about the direction of the company and was sick to his gut every day he came to work. To others, he was the model employee but secretly he desperately wanted to go somewhere else. After he finished making his case he took a breath and we talked about the new opportunity and I told him I would be happy to give him a recommendation.
A few hours after our lunch my cell phone rang and it was my friend. We chit chatted a few moments and then he said; “I forgot to ask you, what do you think about me leaving?” I told him it sounded like a good job, the move on his family would be disruptive but manageable and to remember wherever he went he was taking himself with him. I went on to explain that some of his unease and difficulty with his present position was not just the job but were the secrets and burdens he carried with him. “No matter where you go,’ I said quoting one of my favorite wisdom teachers, ‘there you are. “
Don’t carry your secrets and burdens with you.
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.
At a health council meeting today a speaker gave a presentation on going the extra mile. She asked; “Where did this saying come from?” I thought for sure someone would answer but no one did so finally I replied; “Jesus.” She smiled and moved on with her talk. She explained in the time of the Roman Empire there was a rule that if a soldier or other important dignitary asked you to help carry some of their weaponry or baggage you were obligated to carry it one mile. Jesus, however, in Matthew chapter 5, said; “If someone has you carry their stuff one mile go ahead and make it two.” The speaker continued; “The first mile is obligation the second mile is voluntary. It’s the second-mile people remember. When you move beyond your comfort zone, when you give more than what you can afford to, do more than you were asked or expected, offer kindness, grace, and love abundantly, extravagantly.”
As I reflected on her presentation it was a good reminder that what the world expects and usually gets is the minimum, the essentials. When someone digs deeper, cares greatly, meets the greatest of needs, it matters and stays with the one helped and the one helping.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” #MayaAngelou
One of the hardest things we do on the path of wisdom is to discover we are not all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise. From the time we are born, we are learning. It might be good, positive lessons, not so good, or, most likely, a mixture of both. As we get older we hopefully begin to separate the good from the not so good. We learn that there are lessons we need to relearn and others we simply need to forget.
One of the most important lessons is we are not meant to carry the mountains we climb. Each of us deals with challenges, struggles, and difficulties. Some navigate incredibly tough paths because of what they endured as children, adolescents, and adults. The climb to the top of the mountain, to overcome these negatives is a great success. However, once the top is reached the question is asked; “What now?” When all you’ve known is pain and heartache it becomes a part of you. Reaching the mountain top doesn’t bring the joy and relief expected.
Unfortunately, some, instead of descending the mountain and continuing on with the journey now free of great burden pick up the mountain and carry it with them. The mountain has become a part of them and to separate from it is like breaking off a piece of themselves and leaving it behind.
Wisdom teaches us how to climb, how to descend and how to let go. It may still feel we are leaving part of ourselves behind but we trust our journey will take us to a place, a discovery of our new selves.
The fellowship hall which belongs to one of the two churches next to our house had a new roof put on yesterday. As I was doing yard work they were working under the hot sun with no hope of shade. A truck pulled into the parking lot full of shingles and the driver began unloading. After he finished another man grabbed a bundle of shingles, positioned them on his shoulders and carried them up the ladder to the workers on the roof.
Watching this man and the way he handled the shingles and the ladder you might think he would be broad and muscular but actually, he was smallish in size. However, the way expert way he handled the shingles let you know he’d been doing this type of work for a while.
Impressed with his agility and strength I reflected on the burdens that people carry. Mother Teresa once famously said; “I know God says; ‘He wouldn’t give us more than we could handle.’ I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”
Size, age, education, talent, and all the accolades the world holds dear doesn’t necessarily equal great faith or perseverance. It’s the elderly woman we pass in the grocery store, the young man with the earring in his nose, the middle age woman with a tear in her eye, the man holding the door open for strangers, who carry burdens too heavy for most of us.
They are able to do this not because they are stronger but have been doing it longer.
Carry On –
This afternoon I walked into a local convenience store to grab a few 2 liters of soft drinks for a celebration I was attending. Because I was in a hurry I didn’t grab a grocery cart and figured I would carry the drinks to the check-out. I grabbed the 2 liters and headed to the front. Unfortunately for me one of the lanes was closing and I was stuck awkwardly holding the drinks while those in front of me were purchasing their items. The drinks were getting HEAVY and because of the way I was holding them I was worried about dropping if I tried placing them on the floor. Finally, I was second to next in line and the man being checked out only had a few items. I asked if I could put the drinks on the counter? “Sure,’ he said, ‘no problem.” I did and it was such a relief to put down the drinks, stretch my arms out and breathe an exasperated sigh at my impatience at not grabbing a grocery cart. I checked out and the cashier placed the drinks in a couple of plastic bags which made it easier to carry.
This evening I am thankful for the young man who let me place my burdens down even though it wasn’t my turn and he could have refused. I’m thankful for lessons, over and over, which help me see hurriedness and mindlessness lead to nothing but pain and exhaustion. Lastly, I am thankful for those I’ve met on my path who have taught, are teaching, me to carry burdens in a different, better, healthier way that allows me to keep going and not lose my way or what I treasure.
A few weeks ago my riding lawn mower stopped working. I quickly exhausted my limited knowledge of what could be wrong and knew it needed to go to a mechanic. To get to the shop I would also need a way to transport it. I wasn’t sure if it would fit in the bed of my mid-size truck so I retrieved a tape measure and discovered the mower wouldn’t quite fit. To get it where it needed to go I would need help. I called a friend who graciously offered to bring his trailer over this morning and transport it for me.
Reflecting on the blessing of my friend’s generosity I also thought of the truth that we need each other to sometimes help us carry our burdens. Being willing to bless one another by offering what we can, when we can and doing all we can, we’re able to get where we need to go… together.