Turning on the porch light yesterday I spotted a basket with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and fruit. This was one example of the flowers and plants that have been delivered, brought to the memorial service, delivered by courier to our family over the last several days. Each one comes with heartfelt condolences, sweet words, kind thoughts, and prayers. We have appreciated and placed every one of them in a prominent place in the house. I told my wife and mom today the living room looked like a botanical garden.
What’s interesting is many of these plants and flowers are in the process of dying. They are eye-catching, smell wonderful, and fill the house with color, but make no mistake, they are dying. From the time the designer cut the stems on the roses, carnations, lilies, sunflowers, and many more, they began to die. They were placed in water and other sponge-like materials to make them last as long as possible but eventually, they will wilt and be thrown away.
This happens to all living things. There is the moment of birth, growth, blossoming and adorning the world with beauty and life. However, as soon as each living thing is born it begins to die. It can be from lack of care and pass sooner or it can receive lots of attention and adoration and hopefully live a long fruitful life. However, either way, its time will come when it will be no more.
This last week has been a reminder of how soon things pass. On the way home from the memorial service for my dad yesterday I remarked to my mom; “No matter who you are or what you are going through, you always think you have more time than you do.”
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?”
Today would’ve been my friend Mary’s 90th birthday. It’s the second one I’ve celebrated without her. A year and couple of months ago she passed away but I still have her birthday on my calendar. Hers is not the only lost loved one I have marked. I have another’s who passed away in 2010 and more. Sometimes the birthdays of friends, family, loved ones who have passed sneak up on me. In the midst of life a special day arrives along with the realization it cannot be celebrated together.
Saturday night, I came across a picture frame with a crocheted Bible verse inside. My wife had made and given it to Mary many years ago. I picked up the frame, read the verse and then clutched it tightly to my chest. Grief had reached out, grabbed my heart and the gift, which was returned to us after Mary’s passing, was all I had to hold onto.
One of wisdom’s truest and toughest lessons is that all things pass away. Everything and everyone we love will, in time, slip from our grasps and our lives. The transience of all created things is incredibly difficult to accept but the more willing we are to let go the less of a grip grief will have upon us.