Surfing or Drowning –
I just finished reading an article from seven years ago today about a father and son who were killed by a drunk driver. The mom shared it on social media and the heartache is still present and the wound raw. I can’t imagine the pain. I knew the father a little. He was in our church’s youth group. He was a few years older than me but always seemed cool. He was an athlete. He ran, biked, swam, and surfed. The morning dad and son were killed they were training for a triathlon. The father was named after his father and the son carried on the tradition. He was the III.
How do you have hope in the midst of such loss? How do you not drown in sorrow? How do you not get lost in such darkness? I don’t think there’s an easy answer. Quips and quotes don’t begin to address the brokenness and reveal our lack of intimacy with death. We do everything we can to avoid it. Most of us try to prolong our lives by any means necessary. When death finally does come we are quick to make the arrangements, organize a memorial or funeral service and push past it as fast as possible. But even then, death finds a way to corner us, trap us, confront us. After the hustle and bustle of meals, flowers, sympathy cards, and services we find ourselves alone when death, misery, mourning, comes calling.
Experts tell us that when we are caught in a riptide to not fight the current or it will surely drown its victim. Let it grab you and then slowly, moving parallel to the shore, slip from its grip. I think this is how we deal with the loss of those we love. There’s no escaping and fighting and refusing to acknowledge its power end in certain defeat. To allow it take hold, scare us, shake our faith, sweep our “normal” life away, but not giving up is the key. Slowly our strength returns, we regain our bearings, we slip from its grip, rise above the waters and live.
This morning I had an early appointment so fixed my breakfast to go. I like cereal but not milk so I put some bran flakes in a cup, mixed in raisins and was ready. I even put a top on the cup of cereal so I wouldn’t spill it. I hopped in the truck and was on my way. When I made it to the highway and would be going straight without turning, I popped open the tabs on my coffee cup and drank and reached down, carefully took the lid off the cereal and then lifted it up to begin munching on my homemade raisin bran. As I did I caught the top of the cup on the lip of the cover of the console between the seats. Before I knew it the cup had been knocked out of my hand, landed side ways between the seats, spilling the cereal underneath my seat. There was barely any left to eat. Sigh. So much for breakfast.
As I continued driving to my appointment the growl in my stomach was ferocious but didn’t have time to stop and grab a bite anywhere. I drank my coffee which helped and by the time I arrived at my location I had nearly forgotten the mess of the spilled cereal.
Life is about learning to let go of things we care about. It’s about dealing with and accepting that even those things which we take great care of are still, one day or moment, going to slip through our fingers. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”
The question becomes; “Can we let go when the time comes? Are we able to continue to travel the path even with grief and loss? Do we understand that losing control, our grip, on the things we treasure is part of the necessary experiences that allow us to fully be and feel alive?”
in the Moment –
Yesterday, while watering flowers, a beautiful bright green Dragonfly (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragonfly) landed on the wrist of my left hand. I froze! My first thought was; “Awesome!” My second thought was; “Do Dragonflies bite?” The third was; “This’ll make a great Instagram photo!” I slowly began to walk toward my phone which was about a hundred feet away. I tried not move my arm or scare the insect in any way. Finally, I got to the phone, gently leaned over to pick it up, turned it on, entered the lock screen code and pressed the Instagram icon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instagram). It opened but at the same time the Dragonfly decided it would leave and fluttered away. “No!” I screamed. “Sigh.” So close.
It was an exasperating reminder that no moment can be taken for granted nor forced to last longer than what is intended. Instead of worrying about taking a picture, sharing the photo for “likes” and “comments” I should have simply enjoyed the Dragonfly sitting on my wrist and the bliss of the unique moment. In wanting to capture it I lost the joy of it happening and felt the corresponding disappointment of the moment fly away, slip through my fingers.
Our old Golden Retreiever, Belle, isn’t as young as she used to be. The picture above is from several years ago. Now, she’s nearly blind in both eyes, can’t hear, has more white on her face than gold and isn’t very steady on her feet.
This morning we went outside for an opportunity to do some “business” and she became distracted by treats she’s been finding on the ground since last weekend when the people from the church beside us had a cookout. The area the dogs visit in the morning is a shared space with the church and the attendees dropped goodies which Belle has been finding most of the week. As she sniffed around for another stale morsel her feet became tangled and she almost fell face first onto the ground. I rolled my eyes, smiled and told her; “Focus! You’re out here for one thing and you’re getting distracted by another. You can’t go in two directions without falling.”
As she ignored me and continued hunting for that last elusive goodie, I reflected on the truth of how easily we “lose our feet” because we’re not focused on what’s important and instead spend our lives searching for stale, spoiled, soiled things which will never satisfy.