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.
I found this to be an interesting quote. I’m not sure how to forgive; “everything” or if everything needs forgiveness but certainly believe that forgiveness. Genuine forgiveness is in short supply.
We live in a world where everyone seems angry over something. We fight with family, friends, strangers, internet buddies, internet trolls about banal topics that are of no consequence and about subjects with grave consequences. The problem is we can’t tell the difference and fight over everything.
To live with an attitude of forgiveness, to be a walking, breathing living example of forgiveness in a world that hates, fights, shames, shuns, is to invite hurt, pain, betrayal, and accusations of being out of touch. However, it’s also the antidote to the poison that threatens to kill all we hold dear.
This morning, driving to a Father/Child reading event I was rounding a curve when out of nowhere came a big white dog, barking and headed straight for the truck. I didn’t have much time to react when at the last second it decided to turn back. My heart went into my stomach and as I looked in the rearview mirror the dog made its way back to the bush it was hiding behind to wait for its next victim. It was frightening to have this huge canine all of a sudden appear on what should have been an easy drive to a county library.
After my heart and stomach settled I thought about the dog and the fright it gave me. The fear had subsided and I wondered where its owner was, why the dog was allowed to play this dangerous game when, in a collision, the vehicle almost always wins?
I don’t like being afraid. Fear is unsettling and I’d prefer to live life without it. However, I admit that life can be a lot like the, almost, run in with the dog today. We navigate the road of life the best we know how hoping to reach our destination. When, out of nowhere, something happens which makes us afraid. It may be a brush with death, a lingering sickness, a mental health issue, a financial crisis, a danger or challenge to friends and family. In these moments we become afraid. Our goal is no longer reaching our destination but getting through each next moment. Everything slows down and our attention becomes solely on the fear.
In one sense it’s helpful our vision is singularly focused. It helps us concentrate on what’s in our way and how to avoid it or fight it. However, if we are not careful the thing which makes us afraid becomes the only thing we see and our vision to all the beauty and wonder of life is obscured. Balancing being fearful and mindful is tricky but is the only way we make sure we don’t spend our lives afraid to live.
Fight the Way You Practice –
This afternoon was the first class for Incarcerated Fathers, Spring 2017. The first day of class is always a little awkward. The residents do not know you and you don’t know them. You explain how the class works, what’s required of them and what you will give for the class to be a success.
We talked about respect and relationships and how the key to successful parenting is our children being able to trust that we will be there for them in every way possible. By doing this we give kids the confidence that they can venture out into the world because home is always safe and always there.
Many of the men I teach in these classes didn’t have that kind of home life growing up and find it difficult to picture what a family such as this would look like. As we go through the class we will practice showing them it is possible and necessary to give their children the childhood the residents didn’t grow up with and for them to be the parents they aren’t sure they can be. Once they work on these skills, practice them they will begin to believe it possible.
“You can only fight the way you practice.” This the hope we have for the men who participate in our class; to learn to fight in such a way that builds up, not destroys.
One of the hardest things to do in life is to admit we are powerless. It’s not in our DNA. We are overcomers. We make a way where there isn’t a way. We will not be conquered, helpless, ineffectual, useless, defenseless, defeated.
However, there are times when we have no choice. In spite of our defiance and indomitable spirit, we must admit we cannot win, change or alter a situation.
Wisdom tells us that submission can at times be our greatest strength. It is when we are still, not struggling, we find our way to peace and contentment. There is a difference between being physically or emotionally powerless and having the ability to know the fight isn’t ours to win.
Not Open –
This morning, I put on a shirt I had never worn before. Buttoning up the front I then went to button the cuffs. The first one was no problem but the second one was hard to get the button through. After several attempts, I finally looked to see what the problem was and to my surprise, the hole for the button on the cuff was sewn shut. It had never been cut open so the button couldn’t go through it. I didn’t have time to look for scissors so I simply rolled up my sleeves.
Yesterday, in a “how to communicate” lecture, one of the men in our Incarcerated Father group raised his hand and was busting at the seams to say something. I looked at him, smiled and said; “Yes sir?” “You don’t know the women we hang around! These communication skills won’t work with them, they’re crazy!” he blurted out. The class laughed and most agreed. When they settled down we spent a few moments going through a few alternatives forms of communicating that might be better-suited for the men and women who make up their family and friends.
“However, in the end,’ I said, ‘sometimes you need to know when to walk away. If they aren’t receptive to your desire not to argue, fuss and fight, then ending the conversation before the mayhem begins is your best option.'”
Sometimes, the way through the drama, aggression, judgement isn’t open at this point and time. If you can’t get through it, it’s best to leave it be and try again another day.
Fear Doesn’t Work that Way
Last night, the Mrs. and I were late going out to water our flowers and bushes. I grabbed my brightest flashlight and went out the front door. Just beyond our porch there is a huge Oak tree. As I stepped off it something falling from the tree caught my eye. I shined the light on the flowers beneath the tree trying to find the object. Seeing nothing I then illuminated the area where whatever fell came from. That’s when I noticed movement and it didn’t take me long to see it was a large Rat Snake (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_snake), in fact there were two of them. As soon as Beth heard the word snake she wouldn’t get near the tree. I told her they were non-poisonous, not fond of humans and kept the mice and rodent population down. This didn’t dissuade her nor reduce her fear of snakes.
In an episode of; “Sports Night,”(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sports_Night) Dan and Casey, two sports anchors, were discussing a fear Casey was experiencing. Dan says to Casey; “Don’t be afraid!” Casey smiles and replies; “Fear doesn’t work that way.”
Fear has a way of reaching down inside of us and finding a place to reside where mere words, logic and assurance have a hard time dislodging. Being afraid is primal. It often triggers; fight, flight or freeze response. Too often we judge and don’t understand another’s fears, especially if we don’t share it. We try our best to talk them out of being afraid or tell them how to work through their fright. The best response, however, is to listen, understand, don’t judge, don’t push and allow them to work through their fears in their own time and their own pace.