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.
Much of the work I do with men is helping them see their life; “as it is” not how they think it is, where they are, not where they think they’re located. Many times we think that to improve our lives we just leave the past behind, imagine what we want and go in the direction of our dreams. However, until we know who we are, what we are, we cannot change our life’s trajectory.
Imagine having a map of New York and wanting to visit the Statue of Liberty. You find the world-famous landmark and begin to plan how long it will take and what resources you’ll need to complete your journey. However, if you don’t know where you are you have no starting point, no place of reference. You can’t take the first step towards the future until you discover where you’re standing presently. There are two different type of planning are required if you’re already in New York or if you’re coming from Chicago.
Self-awareness and intense discernment are required for us to forge a new path for our lives. Who, what and where we’ve been determines the genesis point, the starting place that will take us where we need to go.
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.
Pallets make a great source of free wood for our fire and the ash is a good fertilizer. But, to use the ash you must first separate it from the metal nails and staples. This past weekend I bought a magnet from a hardware store so that when the ash cools it can be used to pick up what is detrimental to growing things.
Yesterday, I tried it out and it worked well. A quick swipe and a lot of metal was stuck to the magnet. As I removed the nails, screws and staples I thought about how nice it would be to have a magnet for our spirits, emotions and thoughts which we could swipe over ourselves removing any attitudes, dispositions, hostility, confusion, doubts, fears anything that keeps us from growing, maturing, walking the path of wisdom and peace.
However, the more I considered this the more I saw that oftentimes it is the battles, the hardships, the weaknesses we overcome that can be our greatest source of growth. It is in the sifting, the sorting, the separation of the positive and negative influences upon our lives where we find our strength and purpose.