Today was busy! I know for some it was a holiday but my schedule was stuffed! The day started early and it felt like a sprint to the end of it. I don’t mind busy days most of the time because it keeps the time moving and there’s no boredom to fight off.
On the other hand, my wife had a holiday. Today is Martin Luther King day and she was able to sleep in, keep her PJs on and enjoy a wonderful day of doing nothing, purposefully. She’s been incredibly busy since November of last year and a day home, without me!, and zilch on her schedule was what she needed.
There is a thin line between balancing a healthy life or action and inaction. Our chaotic world and its need for non-stop entertainment, to-do lists, places to go, things to experience, can set a pace where eventually we burn out, fall apart, or both. We need to know when to stop, take our foot off the gas and be still; not just emotionally and mentally but physically.
Knowing, sensing, its time for a break, a rest, a lazy day is an important sense to develop and put into practice.
Today I had the privilege and duty to be a part of the memorial service for my father. It’s been surreal the last few days. So many errands to run, items to check off on a list, places to go, people to see. There’s been a sense of urgency, a nervous energy, a controlled chaos, riding a wave of sorrow and speed. Because of the hectic pace of the last several days, I stood on the stage behind the pulpit at the service this afternoon with no notes, and no structure to the stories and experiences I wanted to share.
Words, they’ve flooded my mind and soul since Dad passed. Words from family and friends who care and are sorry for our loss. Words that go into an obituary, on a card for flowers, in a service program and used in phone calls, emails, and texts. So many words used to describe the love a family has for one who is, was, the central fixed, point.
Now, standing behind the pulpit at the memorial service today, I had no notes, no words written, no solid ideas, memories swarming in my head but none coming in for a landing. How do you choose the right words to convey the meaning of a life which impacted many people? In the pantheon of phrases, how do you pick out those which will express the purpose of a life lived well?
A deep breath, a small prayer, and … share my heart, open my lips, loosen my tongue and let the words come. No, they will not be adequate. No, they will not be perfect. Yes, there will be second-guessing and memories that are forgotten to be shared.
Words. They are not, and cannot contain the heart’s cry of longing and loneliness or succinctly express the fondness, the love, the good of being apart from a person you love. This is okay. Living, being, existing, is more than words, deeper than condolences, greater than expressions of sympathy and sadness.
Living should be beyond our ability to communicate it easily if it is done well.
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.
The Heart’s Way –
The sky has been cloudy today. It has been mostly dreary and cool. It’s one of those days you stay inside and try to keep warm. This weekend has felt like fall. Not the fall with the beautiful leaves, cool nights and warmer days but the type of fall days which tell you winter won’t be long coming.
I’ve been tired today. It’s been a long 10 days and its caught up with me. I don’t mind “lazy” days. They are good for the mind, body, and spirit. However, there are things which need to get done that didn’t. I know there will still be enough sunny warmer days to finish winterizing the house and yard but letting go of “wasted” day thoughts is still tough.
Looking inside, into my soul, where the stillness exists I am reminded that there must be days we rest. I am thankful for the wisdom teachings of the importance of the mind but even more so the lessons of the heart. Going deep, when the surface is confused or condemning, helps me discover the path is not forged by a quickened pace but by a contented heart.
Beth and I were talking over the weekend about perspective. It amazes me as I get older the more control I lose and the greater perspective I gain. Whether it’s a few moments, days, months or years, our lives, which we like to plan, can come undone.
The world has never been predictable. I was speaking with a friend the other day about the instability which surrounds us. Our political systems, family and community systems, even our environment seems to be spinning out of control. Nothing, if it ever was, is normal nor inevitable.
Last night I read a quote from Eugene Peterson, a pastor, writer, and scholar. He writes;
“The whole of the spiritual life is learning to die.”
This quote resonated with my spirit and experiences over the last several years. Dying takes many forms. Death of all things is a given but we seem to organize our lives as if we might be the ones to escape the fate of everyone else. Death is not a negative word if you’ve learned to die. If you do not hold on treasures and trinkets, live each day as if it’s your last; being kind, grace-filled and loving, never putting off to an uncertain tomorrow what can be done now, in the present moment.
We are but sojourners on this path called life. We are not meant nor built to last for long. With this perspective; how we choose to be today could be how our transient life is remembered tomorrow.
I watched a video this week about an important military leader giving graduates a piece of advice. He said; “If you want to change your life, improve your life, make your bed every morning.” He went on to elaborate and talked about how a simple disciplined act at the beginning of your day can positively shape your day, your week, your life. I’m not sure I bought all of what he was selling but I do think good choices today lead to good results tomorrow.
Tonight I spoke to a group of guys who have each made the decision over the last two months to come to class and learn how to be better men and better dads. I tell them each week it starts with; “Good choices which lead to being good men and then good dads. It all starts with the choices you make today and they determine the type of man you will be tomorrow.”
Moments, hours, days, years from now, when we lay in a box and people stand over us staring, what will they say? A lot of what is said will be determined by the decisions we make presently, the routine of our everyday life.
On Saturday I posted about the knee problems I’ve been having and the steroid shots I received to try to alleviate the pain and inflammation (Crawl. Walk. Run. https://thewannabesaint.com/2016/05/14/crawl-walk-run/).
The good news is that my right knee feels better but my left one is still very sore and walking is laborious. After emerging from my confinement, doctor’s orders were to keep off of my legs for the weekend, I noticed the grass had not stopped growing just because I couldn’t mow it as I usually do on Friday and Saturday. My knee was too swollen to mow on Monday but yesterday I made the decision that the grass had to be cut or we’d be overrun! I rubbed some anti-inflammatory cream on the affected area, took a couple of Advil, strapped on a knee brace and proceeded. It didn’t go smoothly, was difficult but the job got done.
One of benefits of having a self-propelled lawn mower is that it doesn’t require much pushing, mostly guiding. Usually I press the lever, hold on and walk behind it, wishing its speed was faster. Tuesday evening was a different story. Because my gait is shorter and more awkward I had trouble keeping up with the mower when the self propel was activated.
As I hobbled along behind the mower I reflected on the pace of life. There are days, seasons when it doesn’t move fast enough and others when it flies by too quickly. It would be great to be able to control its speed to fit with our liking. Wisdom teaches us the key is to accept its speed as best we can and embrace the truth that life moves at its own pace with or without our ability to keep up.