Got plans? Resolutions? Regrets? Wishes? Hope? Dreams? Fears?
What will change 2014 for you? What is it about a new year, a new calendar, a new January that gives us hope or commitment to change, grow, etc.?
Eliza, my daughter who will turn 4 this year, woke up the morning of December 26th suggesting we have Christmas again. In fact, if the world worked on Eliza’s terms, every day would be Christmas Day.
Which reminded me of a line in a song (as so much of life does): ”Every morning is Easter morning from now on!”
I shared this lyric with Eliza and suggested Easter is an even better day to celebrate everyday than Christmas. (She is yet unimpressed with most of the theological points I make, but I will not give up!)
What Eliza helped me realize is that each day is important and valuable and worth living. Each day is a day full of opportunity for renewal, restart, resolve. Eliza helped me remember again and from a different angle something Jesus said a long time ago: “stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)
A week ago today rocked me a bit. My phone told me I was receiving a call from my aunt. The voice on the call told me differently. The voice was that of a cousin, who, from her grandmother’s phone, was calling to tell me a first cousin of mine had died.
This Aunt had already lost a sister and brother in the past 5 months. Now her 61 year old son, himself a father of 2 and devoted husband, had died of a heart attack.
Later in the day, Rachel shared news with me from facebook that a dear friend of ours had lost a cousin to a massive stroke that same day. She had been 35.
The death of someone as close as a first cousin confronts one with one’s own mortality. The death of someone a decade and a half younger brought it even closer to home for me.
As we sat watching something from our DVR, I actually caught myself praying that I would live to see the end of the episode.
I chuckled at myself, then gave thanks that, this same day that death seemed to impinge so closely, I had also received, by mail, results from the bloodwork of my recent annual physical. All the numbers were good – confirming the call I had received late last week.
So I went to bed that night pondering this one line from the Service of Death and Resurrection – a line I had heard read at the funeral I led the day before: ”In the midst of life, we are in death.”
Indeed, we are. Let’s be thankful for the days we have, and share the love with others that we have received.
There is at least one difference between Jesus and a popular conception of Santa.
Ok, that’s not exactly how it happened. I was at the home of someone who had just died, waiting for more of the family to arrive. One of those who had been there throughout the morning offered a bag of grapes to one who just arrived.
“Try these. You haven’t had grapes until you’ve had one of these!”
Those must be some grapes, I thought. I didn’t try one – they weren’t offered to me. The person’s suggestion that these were indeed the best grapes in her memory caught me, though. In the midst of all the emotions that come with the death of a parent, her conviction regarding the goodness of these grapes was a little mind boggling.
My mind immediately went to this piece someone had shared with me recently. People (usually) invite other people to church for the very same reason this woman was so eager to share her experience with the best grapes she had ever had.
Can you and I make room in our understanding of other people’s experiences for this?
One of the ways I have the most trouble accepting this is when someone suggests something I “should read.” How do they know what I should read? Do they think I don’t believe correctly, or that I think wrongly about something, and this book or that article will correct me?
Or maybe they want to share something that has really touched, moved, or helped them.
What has made a difference for you lately?
Is it worth sharing?
It has been almost a month now, Dad, since you peacefully left behind your struggles with Parkinson’s. The thing I’m having the most trouble getting past, Dad, is you were too young to die.
I know 78 is pretty average, but you were always healthier than average. You told me of a physical you had at 70. Observing the results of your blood workup, your doctor said you had the numbers of a man in his 20s.
Then came Parkinson’s. I hate Parkinson’s. I don’t know how you felt though, to be losing your focus, memory, awareness of the world and people around you. I don’t know how aware you were of your lack of awareness. Ever since I spent an evening without short-term memory when I was 19 (the consequence of putting my head through a windshield), I have been aware of the extreme frustration of, in effect, knowing what you don’t know.”
But, Dad, you almost always seemed fairly peaceful, or at least calm, in your confusion. I don’t know if this was because you weren’t aware of the changes, or if, as I suspect, you always were calmer about things that I feel I am. I suppose I’ll be able to ask you about all that someday.
I had my annual physical this morning, Dad. Dr. says I am healthy – in some ways very healthy for a man of 50. I would feel more peace about that if I weren’t very, very aware now that even health doesn’t mean prolonged years.
Your example, Dad, helps me understand Jesus’ teaching about not laying expectations and hope on years or wealth or possessions. None of us really knows how long we have, do we?
The last several times I’ve visited my dad he has been unable to respond in any way more than a tremor of the mouth or a twitch of an eyebrow. I talk to him anyway, not knowing whether he hears or understands or not.
I’ve never been particularly good at speaking in ways my dad understood. I always had a penchant for questions he couldn’t answer. Too often, this was calculated on my part.
I got my sense of humor from my mom. Thus, when I would hit dad with snappy questions or drop rhetorical bombshells in front of him, I would get a chuckle and a slight shake of his head.
We developed the kind of relationship where, more often than not, less than a minute into our phone conversation, he would say, “Do you want to talk to your mom?”
In these recent years, I decided that he was aware his mind wasn’t what it used to be. That he had trouble keeping things straight or following a conversation.
If I had any of those years to do over again, a little of me now wishes I would have talked to him differently; more on his terms than on mine.
These last couple of visits, I’ve been different. I’ve held his head, massaged his feet, anything I could think of that might bring him some comfort. Like most of my life, I don’t know for sure if it makes much difference to him, but I do it anyway. Now I do these things not because I am comfortable doing them, like the way I used to talk to him, but because I hope that, even a little, they are good for him.
Please understand: I don’t remember ever having any doubt of my father’s love for me. And I am not beating myself up now for not living better in it. More, I think, reflecting on a life I too often took for granted.