What’s in a Day? –
I was once asked by someone; “What do you want to do with your life? What are your plans for the future?” I was sitting outside, leaned back and thought for a moment and then surprising my interrogator and myself replied; “I’m doing it. I am content. I have no more plans.” My friend didn’t like my answer because everyone should have something they are striving for. How else can you measure life unless it’s by your accomplishments? As a contemplative wisdom teaches that days are measured by the moments when you are aware of your connectedness to all living things and that the universe is in every experience.
What would you do if today were your last? Martin Luther is reputed to have said, “If I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would plant a tree.” In other words, I would contribute to the beauty of the world and thus the universe. As Marcus Aurelius states in the quote, I would want to live my last day as I hope to live every day; “without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense.”
Cleaning Out –
The last two days my mother and I have been working in my dad’s garage. It may be mom’s house but it will always be dad’s garage. We’ve been going through a lot of stuff which needed to be sorted. By the time we finished I had things to throw away, to keep and the garage was clean and organized.
It was a sad and enjoyable time rummaging through dad’s things. He loved tools and one could tell as we tried collecting them in one place. There was paint from projects long ago completed and recent work. Other items hadn’t been opened yet and we wondered; “What project was he thinking about when he bought this?”
The garage was a sacred space for my father. None of us would’ve dared gone in and rearranged it before his passing. My mom said this morning; “I know it needs to be done but I don’t want to do it.” I understood what she meant. There was a sense of invading another’s domain, eery and holy at the same time. There were items we kept not because they were important but because we just aren’t ready to part with them.
I think this best describes our walk down the path this week. We know we must go on without dad but we just aren’t ready to part with him.
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.
a Visit –
Last night, before letting the dog outside for its last chance to do some business my wife asked me if I could bring two Christmas Cactuses in the house. The temperatures were supposed to be dropping into the 30’s and she wanted to make sure they weren’t harmed. I grabbed the flashlight and opened the door. The dog ran out quickly and grabbing the first of the Christmas cactuses to bring inside I was handing it to my wife when a small bird flew out of the pot and into the house. My wife surmised this wasn’t a situation she was comfortable with feeling certain the bird wanted to nest in her hair and bolted for the living room. I picked up two mesh hats and tried to corral and capture the scared and fast-moving critter. It wasn’t easy but after a few moments, I noticed it kept heading back to the door where it came in. I propped open the door and was able to guide it to the opening and away it flew. “Whew!” Way too much excitement for that late at night.
As I chased the bird around the kitchen, mud room, and laundry room I wondered how ridiculous I looked trying to catch a bird, without harming it, with two mesh caps and my obvious lack of speed and agility. I also reflected on the unpredictability of life and how we can find ourselves so quickly in a situation we wouldn’t have dreamed of before it happens to us. Then, without warning, the unexpected comes swooping into our lives, and we are forced to deal with it.
Life is many things but none of them are boring. Thankfully, the troubles and challenges also, sooner or later, take flight and we’re left to ponder; “What’s next?”