Keep Your Feet –
Yesterday we had snow and ice fall in our area. As a result, today’s travel by truck and foot has been perilous. I drove extra slow around some of the country back roads that were hills and curvy. At each place I arrived, I carefully exited the truck and made sure my feet were on solid ground and not icy patches before fully placing my weight upon them. I walked slowly, deliberately and kept my feet where I could see them to be sure I didn’t slide, fall and hurt myself. This evening when I pulled into the driveway I checked the mail and walking to the house I continued my deliberate pace. Finally, once inside I put on a pair warm PJs and felt I could fully relax.
As I traversed the ice and snow today I remember the wise saying; “Keep your feet beneath you. Don’t let them wander off or there’s no telling where you will end up.” I kept my feet and they led me home.
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.
After several weeks of building an extension onto our porch, yesterday evening it was time to demolish. There was a section which had been built many years ago and needed to be removed so we could match it with the extension. As I began to remove the old, rotten and piecemealed section I wasn’t sure what I’d find underneath. Would there be critters? Would the support beams be rotten? Would it be wet and moldy or dry? To my surprise, the not-so-good-looking porch was nice and sturdy underneath. It was also dry with no water gathered. There should be no problem attaching the new, matching wood.
I spoke with a man today who’s had a rough week. The subject of disappointment came up and we talked about setbacks, struggles, and obstacles on life’s journey. We agreed the path of life will take us through the valley of humility and stresses and pressures can weigh us down making the journey hard. When these times come our surface selves get stripped away. Life has a way of demolishing what’s not solid, sturdy, and revealing what’s underneath.
If there is a strength within, if we can withstand the ripping away of the pieces of ourselves which can’t handle the strain, then we will be able to start again, build anew. Our wisdom, our spirit, our enlightened lives do not come from never facing the chaotic struggles but allowing them to take away what’s not needed and reveal what’s greater within, underneath.
Not the Same
The grief in her eyes was impossible to miss. She had lost someone near and dear to her. One who was young, full of life, seemingly with many years left and then one day he was gone. We spoke in hushed tones almost afraid our usual tones would make this terrible truth more real. “I don’t think life will ever be the same again. Normal seems so far from here. How do I get back?” I looked into her shocked and sorrowful eyes and said; “You don’t. Life, as you knew it to be, is over. There is no going back. In time, with healing, you will learn to live in a new normal.”
There are moments, events, seasons in life which guarantee we will never be the same again. Tragedies, awakenings, epiphanies that change everything. What we held to, put our faith in, who we loved are lost. Our rhythm and sense of normal is disrupted. We long to go back, make everything; ‘as it was,’ hold on to that which seemed solid, lasting but it sifts through our hands like sand. Our desire to return is admirable but futile.The way back has been closed off to us forever.
Finding a new normal takes patience with ourselves. We must grieve not only the loss but the difficult path of newness. Even in these darkest of times there is a light in the distance, a rhythm faintly beating, a new normal waiting to be discovered.