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.
Yesterday evening, Beth and I went to pick up an antique desk from a friend who isn’t using it anymore. We placed it in the back of the truck, tied it down and headed home. We were a little over an hour from the house when a few rain drops hit the window. “Uh-oh!” we thought and both said. It was raining and we didn’t have the desk covered for protection against water. The sprinkles stopped and we breathed a sigh a relief. As we continued the drive we talked about how most days, especially evenings, we wanted rain and were thankful. However, because we had the desk we desired the rain to “go away and come again some other day.” We both agreed we were fickled human beings.
Fickled is a funny word but it can be a difficult obstacle to overcome. I’ve known and have been fickled in my life, vacillating back and forth between opinions, ideas, and judgments. Most of the time being fickled can be overlooked but there should be, must be, things upon which we would stake our possessions, livelihood, and lives. If we are fickled about everything then we will stand for nothing.
This week, perhaps more than any other week in recent history, being fickled about bias, hate, bigotry, and racism has been on full display. I believe these are areas in which there can be no wiggle room, no area for retreat. This is where people must draw the line, stand at the risk of everything because if we don’t there may be nothing left to protect.
This morning I gave a presentation to a group composed of English-speaking and Spanish-speaking only individuals. This mix of people meant using a translator. This was a new experience for me. I quickly learned the differences in lecturing with and without one. The first was pacing. I couldn’t use my normal pace because of the pause required to let the translator interpret the words, phrases and ideas being presented to those who only spoke Spanish. The second was trusting the translator to interpret everything I said correctly. Even now I have no way of knowing what she did and didn’t say to those who were listening to her.
One of the positives, while also being strange, in using a translator, was the pause between speaking. While she spoke I could decide how to present my next idea. I used these gaps to make sure extra, unneeded words and phrases were removed while important crucial points were made as clear as possible.
Though difficult I do wonder if every day communicating would benefit from pausing between each sentence, thought and idea to ensure every word, even the gaps, are filled with meaning and purpose? Perhaps we’d have a more peaceable world if we were forced to think before we speak.
This morning I had a presentation in Nashville, TN. I left with plenty of time to spare, didn’t encounter any wrecks, traffic jams, everything went smoothly and I arrived early. I took my time getting out of the truck, making sure everything needed was in my bag and headed into the lobby. Once inside there was a line to the receptionist and waiting patiently it finally became my time to ask where the room I was looking for was located. I said; “Good morning,” and then asked for directions. A confused look came over her face and I quickly figured out I was in the wrong place. Not just the wrong lobby, but the wrong street and the wrong section of town. I scurried outside, hopped back in the truck and discovered my mistake. I had put the wrong street in the GPS. I double checked my calendar, typed in the correct address and it was fifteen miles away! Yikes! I called my co-presenter and told her what happened and I would be there as fast as possible. After arriving again, this time at the right building, I hurried in. I was only ten minutes late but it felt much longer. My co-presenter began her section of the program and I took several deep breaths trying to center myself. When it was my turn I spoke to the group about fathers, everything went fine and I was thankful to actually be where I belonged.
Wisdom teaches us that we have ideas and certainties of where we need to go on the road of life. We look at our gifts and talents and assure ourselves who, where and what we are meant to be. However, we are often not the best judge of where our lives can be used best. To be centered, to hold our dreams and desires loosely and allow the path of life to unfold, to be led not where we think we need to go but where we actually belong.