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.
Chirp and Chatter –
Yesterday afternoon I was sitting on the front steps to our shed waiting for Beth to come home from work. Me and the dog enjoying the day when a bird overhead began to chirp loudly! It wasn’t the usual chirp and it was incessant. I looked to the limbs of our big Oak tree trying to find it. I couldn’t. The chirping didn’t stop but I couldn’t find it among the leaves. Finally, it stopped and only when it flew away could I see that it was a large woodpecker.
After watching this beautiful bird fly away I reflected on the constant chirping and not knowing where it was coming from. Some thought are like that in our minds. They chirp and chatter and we wonder, why and for what reason, they are filling our minds with noise. Perhaps its regret at an action, a question about why something is happening, puzzlement for a big decision which needs to be made, a betrayal, a hurtful word given or received, a reliving of past events, or worry about the future. Whatever the thoughts, the chirps, and the chatter can keep peace of mind and spirit elusive and unattainable.
Wisdom reminds us that thoughts are going to come and go but it is up to us not grab them and ruminate. A wise master once said; “I cannot stop the thoughts from coming to my door but I do not have to serve them tea.”
Repeat After Me –
This morning I gave a lecture to a group of parents at a Head Start (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/ohs) location in Lewisburg, Tennessee. The topic was the difference between discipline and punishment. Basically, the purpose of discipline is to teach, model, have a long-term view of who and what parents want their children to become. Punishment is a short-term consequence of poor behavior and/or decision-making. For a child to stay on the right path discipline must be consistent and punishment should never be greater than the lesson being taught. When the punishment is greater the lesson trying to be conveyed is lost.
The presentation went well but there was a translator in the room for a group of Spanish-speaking families. I’ve had a translator before but not enough times where I am used to the partnership. I either go too long and the translator has too much to translate or speak in incomplete, chopped up phrases which make it difficult for the ideas I’m attempting to relay not to get lost in translation. When it was over I thanked the translator and she assured me it went well which made me feel better but I think she was being nice to spare my feelings.
As I was driving back from Lewisburg I thought about how different the world would be if we had to wait for the words we said to be translated to the person to whom we were speaking. What if we were forced to take breaths between thoughts, make sure we said only what needed to be said instead of talking incessantly? To be sure how our words were heard, received by the other?
I think, hope, if we used a translator for every conversation we would choose our words more carefully, ensuring the intent of what we said was being conveyed, use far fewer words, and the space in between what was being said and translated to prayerfully seek that what was being said and received was with wisdom, grace and love.