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 sun was shining brightly today as if it had been hidden by clouds and couldn’t take it anymore. Bursting through, nothing holding it back, it lit up the blue sky. Now, after showing off, the sun is setting and only remnants of light remain of its beauty.
I have a friend going through a difficult time, battling a disease that will sooner or later kill him. He’s doing everything he can but our bodies are not made to last forever nor beat every enemy we face. I talked with him today on the phone and his voice sounded stronger than in days past. It was good to hear and I laughed as he told me one of his jokes. The last several weeks have been tough, watching him struggle, rise to meet one challenge only to be met by a new and a more difficult obstacle. No one can keep going no matter how much strength they possess.
Today for a moment he shone brightly and I will keep that memory with me as he moves forward.
Born Again –
I desire to be born again, each day emerging from a blanket cocoon, different from the person I was yesterday. Each day we take steps toward who we will eventually be at the end of our lives. Some are making progress toward love, grace, kindness, and peace, others walk in another direction.
What we do today determines who we will be tomorrow. This is a truth I try to live by. What we put our minds to, invest our emotions in, allow our spirits to inhabit, shapes the person we’ll be tomorrow and in the future. We underestimate the “big” and “little” experiences we encounter each day. We dismiss character flaws, hidden hurts, negative habits, and other behaviors and attitudes that either place chains on our souls.
To emerge, new each day, takes work today. We choose where our path will go, not what our path will go through, but its destination. We can’t make our path easy or difficult but we can decide how we handle both. The decision isn’t on tomorrow’s agenda but today’s.
A few weeks ago I broke the wooden handle on my shovel. This week my wife bought me a new one. It’s a Kobalt and guaranteed “unbreakable“. I did bend it a little today uprooting a stubborn bush. So unbreakable? Perhaps. Un-bendable? Nope.
It was, still is, a gorgeous day outside. Tomorrow the heat and humidity are supposed to come sweeping in but we enjoyed the moment of this day by working way too hard. We’re both exhausted but it’s a good tired.
As I dug holes for bushes and trees, filled the back of the truck with dirt and planted some grass with my new shovel I thought about the digging we do in our lives. Stillness, mindfulness, reflection are basically the same discipline with its goal to remove anything that stifles the life within us.
Digging around isn’t easy on the outside or on the inside but it’s necessary if we are to make old things new, ugly stuff beautiful, and go deep enough that growth, life, is possible.
Life can be hard, difficult, painful and full of loss. There are times, seasons, when the chaos of existence seems to strip us of everything we hold dear and we wonder; “Is there a reason to keep going? What’s the point when everything has been taken away?” When all around us has crumbled, our foundations have been shaken and those things which we’ve placed our faith in no longer exist and we come to place where love, grace and miracles are illusion, what do we do?
At this crisis point we are faced with the decision to trust when there doesn’t seem reason, to see blessing when your way is cursed, to expect life as death hovers near. From the rubble of disappointment, disease, defeat, dejection, even death comes a chance at a new beginning, an appreciation for what will emerge after all we value disappears.
Being an owner of a Siberian Husky is to accept the shedding that goes along with it. However, the sweeping up and disposing of hair goes into overdrive when these pooches “cast” their coats.
At least once every twelve months huskies will shed their entire under coating which is what protects them from extremely cold temperatures. This hair is incredibly soft, thick and everywhere! It’s outside, inside, on your clothes, on the furniture and the poor dog looks like it has the mange. For six to eight weeks it can be almost impossible to keep up with the old fur that’s being pushed out to make way for the new. When the casting’s done the husky looks twenty pounds lighter.
The last few weeks our Siberian Husky, Trooper, has been casting. He’s over ten years old so we’re used to it. We’ve brushed, plucked, pulled and he’s gnawed, scratched, rubbed against everything he can find to get the loose under fur gone.
As I was picking up fists full of hair over the weekend I thought about how nice it would be to shed certain unwanted things from our lives occasionally. It would be great to “cast away”; hurt feelings, bitterness and failures. Let loose of times we were selfish, short sighted, shallow and sinful. To no longer be incumbered by regrets about what we did or didn’t do, ashamed at how we behaved, mourning the moments we should’ve spoke up or wish we’d been silent.
Wisdom teaches us that we can’t keep carrying around the painful parts of our past. However, in order to be rid of the nagging weight it has on our souls we must accept what’s been done and allow it to help us know how to live and who to be in the present. Only with humility can we lose the old and welcome the new.
Last week I ran out of body wash. My brand is generic, housed in an unassuming white bottle with a pale yellow lid, inexpensive and has worked for me for years. Later that day my wife was going to the store and asked me if I needed anything. I mentioned body wash along with a few other items. The next morning, getting ready for work, I hopped in the shower and saw a green monstrosity staring back at me! It was Irish Spring, Moisture Blast, body wash. My first response was confusion and I looked for my usual non-brand behind the viridescent behemoth. I called out to Beth; “Where’s my body wash?!?!” “I got you something new. Just try it.” was her reply. “Sigh.” The old was nowhere to be found and once again change, transition, newness had entered my life without permission.
I picked up the plastic bottle and mocked the name; “Moisture blast?” I chuckled and taunted it with one of my favorite Zen quotes; “The drops of rain make a hole in the stone, not by violence, but by oft falling.” Thankfully no one could hear the exchange over the running water as I popped the top, squeezed the horrid looking blue gunk onto the scrubber and lathered up.
To my surprise the scent was not at all unpleasant and the wash cleaned me up just fine. I even remarked to the Mrs. after getting ready; “Come and smell me! Don’t I smell good?” “You like it?” she asked. “It’s not too bad,” I quipped. She smiled and I’ve enjoyed the scent of change all week-long.