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.
Into the Light –
Today was a special day for our incarcerated fathers class. The men, who attended and participated, received a certificate of completion, a letter from me along with pizza and soft drinks. Our certificate ceremony isn’t fancy but it is a way to let the guys know how much I appreciate letting me be a part of their lives for the semester.
Getting in and out of the jail is rarely easy which is, I suppose, the way it should be. There’s buzzers, intercoms, thick steel doors and tempered glass to keep people inside. Usually, I arrive at each door, buzz the “door keeper” and identify myself. I then wait until he or she is ready for me to go through the door. Today, however, the corrections officer was especially attentive as I was leaving. He buzzed me out as I was arriving at each door. It was almost as if the doors were unlocked.
In one of our classes during the semester, we talk about action and acceptance. I tell the men; “If the doors of this jail opened and you knew it was okay to walk through you would leave immediately, no hesitation. The problem is this isn’t going to happen. You have to accept you are here until they let you leave. At the same time, you can take action on keeping your family together and connected with the ones you love.” This is the balance of action and acceptance.
I thought about the men in my class today, the lesson of action and acceptance and their decision to come to class, listen, ask questions, share their stories and finally receive their certificates. They are trying to bring balance to their lives and hopefully to those who are travel life’s path with them.
Abundance & Assistance –
Beth and I spent most of the day putting a green tin roof on our porch extension. It looks great but we are exhausted!
Two short reflections from the last two days…
The first was the wonderful rain we had last night. A gorgeous, much-needed soaking rain. It was either ironic or sad but the rain started just as I had finished watering the flowers and the garden. A few drops hit my shoulder as I watered the Blue Spruces we have in the front yard and by the time I got to the front door it was coming down hard. At first there was irritation; “Couldn’t the rain had started 30 minutes before?” but this thought soon withered as I listened to the storm pound the roof, opened the door and watched the water drench the thirst of the grass and trees. Abundance was given to nature last night and I was not only a witness but a participant.
This morning, before tackling the roof on the porch, I made a list of needed materials and headed to the hardware store. Once there I collected and purchased the items, which included 10 sheets of heavy, 12 feet long, sheets of tin. They were cumbersome and difficult to load, carry and navigate the store aisles. When I wheeled the cart out to my truck I began to unload the sheets and put them in the back. It was a frustrating job. The sheets were heavy and got caught the wind, dragging me in a direction I didn’t want to go. The cart began to roll back and other vehicles were passing. At the exact time I needed the most help I caught a glimpse of a hardware store employee walking in my direction. Without a word he assisted me in doing a job I’m not sure I could’ve done myself. I was very thankful and told him so.
Two stories, related to each other in a couple of ways, helped remind me that abundance and assistance may arrive unexpectedly but sometimes their timing couldn’t be more perfect.
she sits outside McDonald’s smoking a cigarette on break
writing frantically on paper a story
between drags she sighs trying to keep her eyes open
as the words fill up the spaces of white
what are these images she hastily puts down
from a distance there is no tale to tell
only in her mind does she see the picture
only from her experience the narrative recorded
what have you seen that compels you to write
what do you know which forces you to journal
what path have you walked that you find yourself here, now
sitting, putting it down on paper, for no one to see