A Box of Peace –
I received flowers for the first time in my life yesterday. Sure, Beth and I as a couple have gotten flowers and plants from family members and friends but flowers for just me? This was the first time. My wife and I opened the box and pulled out a beautiful Peace Lilly (pictured). It is a luscious green with one bloom but the potential for several more. There was also a candle and condolence card. The gifts were from my co-workers and I’m thankful to work with such kind souls.
We placed the flower on a stand near a window where it will receive plenty of sun. I’ve looked at it many times today and have reflected on the last couple of long weeks since my father passed. I like that the Lilly isn’t in full bloom yet. It’s symbolic. It’s a reminder that peace will come in its time. Right now we are in the early stages f grief and there may be moments of peace but it hasn’t healed the wounds in our hearts. However, if we give it time we will notice blossoms of peace spring up more and more until one day, hopefully, there will be more peace than sorrow.
Until then, we’ll hold to the promise, the hope, that better days are ahead.
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.
This morning my family gathered together to write my father’s obituary and order of service for his memorial. After a while, we took a break and I walked outside with my niece and spotted a huge Sycamore leaf. It was the biggest one at first we could see and then it became a competition on who could find the largest one of all. We searched a long time and when we were convinced we had discovered the most sizeable one we began looking for the smallest one. This was harder because we had to look under, beside and move other leaves to find the smallest. Finally, we believed we had the tiniest Sycamore leaf in the yard.
It was another busy day with people visiting, numerous phone calls, memorial service being organized, visiting the florist, and other errands. In the hustle and bustle of things, a family must do when one they love has passed it’s hard to find the peace one desires. The big things, the things which must get done are easy to find, it’s the small things; the glimpses of hope, the good memories, times when the good of a life well-lived shines in the darkness of a loved one parting.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Saint John, chapter 1
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.
Last night a mighty storm with fast blowing winds and rain came through our area. I sat in the house listening to dead limbs being shaken from the big Oak tree in our front yard, the rain pounding on the roof. There were a few times I went outside to see the storm but the sun had already set and with the clouds overhead there wasn’t much to view. Then the power went out. It wasn’t surprising because of the fierceness of the wind. I went outside again and nothing could be seen but I could feel the wind threatening to blow me over as it had a couple of our potted trees. Finally, after a few hours, the storm had passed, the lights were back on, and I was thankful the storm has passed.
I don’t like storms at night. The biggest reason is that I can’t see anything, not even the direction of the blowing wind. As I sat in a candlelit living room, everything quiet but storm raging outside, I was reminded of life and the storms we face. There are times we see the storm coming but there are other times when one comes out of nowhere. It’s ferociousness rocks our lives and we feel blind as we try to feel our way forward. These can be the scariest of all because there is seemingly no light to see by, to make us feel safe, or to tell us we are nearing the end. The only thing we can do is wait, trusting that no storm lasts forever.