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.
Where We Look –
The last two mornings, as I’ve taken the dog outside for some personal time, there has been a beautiful Robin (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Robin/id) looking for food. When I’ve spotted the bird I become as still as possible and see how close it’ll get near me. My breathing slows, my movement stagnant, my attention heightened as I watch it hop around looking for breakfast. The rain we had over the weekend has softened the ground and it isn’t long before it’s meal is plucked up from the ground and the bird flies away. I exhale and the world around me comes alive again. The Robin had been my sole focus and until it leaves, by choice or being frightened, and my awareness of the world was dependent on it.
Wisdom tells us that where we place our focus, set our awareness, is life. Where we look, the direction we face is ultimately the direction of our journey. If we only look back we can never go forward. If we’re unfocused, trying to see all directions, we won’t be able to choose a fixed point and begin to travel toward it. Though paradoxical, stillness is the key to knowing and navigating this path called life.
My face has several areas of dry skin. I try to keep it moisturized but often, during the day, these areas become flaky again and need more lotion applied. To this end I keep moisturizer at home, work and in the truck. The last few weeks, however, when driving around, I’d notice a dry spot reach for and apply the lotion but after putting it back in the holder somehow there would be moisturizer on my pants, the steering wheel, cup holder, floor board and I couldn’t figure out what was happening. Finally, yesterday, I noticed there was a crack in the bottom of the white lotion tube. I didn’t see it before because the lotion and the plastic are the same color. Once I spied it, the messes made sense. I grabbed some duct tape (one of the greatest inventions ever!) and fixed it.
Shaking my head and laughing at my confusion I wondered why I hadn’t seen the crack before. The simple answer was because I never looked for it. I just cleaned up the mess and kept going. I reflected on this and wondered how often we just keep cleaning up the messes that spill into our lives without ever checking to see to where they come from? We get so used to habits, hurts, hangups and learning how to live with them. What if, instead of cleaning the mess, we fixed the problem?