Saturday, March 28, 2015

When they die without us

Leave. They all do that. Some indiscriminately—young, old and in between. Some at the most inconvenient times, like when you’ve just boarded the cruise ship for your long-deserved vacation or have just begun to teach the seven-week family relationships series you committed to. It’s then you get the news the one you’d previously postponed these things for has died.

Some slip off accommodatingly so—politely leaving while you keep watch. Maybe they couldn’t hold out any longer and resigned themselves to “I hate to go off like this while you’re feeling so glum and all, but I really can’t hold on any longer.” Or maybe they just give up and say,” OK, you insist on being here—know I love you—and now, good-bye.”

I’ve heard they don’t like to go if you’re hanging on, which makes me sad about my mom’s passing because several of us siblings slept in her room around the clock. I didn’t expect her to live but I wanted to be with her when she left. One of my favorite authors, Abigail Thomas, in her memoir, Three Dog Life, expressed it this way: “We were afraid to leave him. It was as if we were trying to hatch an egg. Keeping him warm with our presence.”

 Finally, after weeks of watching, I stood at the foot of mom's bed and said to everyone, I can’t take it anymore. I’m going home.” My sister-in-law-nurse said, “Wait a minute, it won’t be long.” So I waited and rubbed those so-many-times-stubbed and-broken toes sticking out from the sheets and she left. Just like that. No fanfare. No angels’ wings batting. No clouds of glory.

But I knew, she knew.

So just now, my friend called to say her husband had died the minute she left to go for lunch. After weeks with him, changing bedpans and propping him up to eat, and holding her breath with his every prolonged nap, and experimenting with every alternative application for colloidal silver she could find because everyone else had given up, he up and left when she was a mile down the road.

She wondered about this. Felt bad. Thing is. I know he loved her. He was secure in her love for him. Recognized her fierce dedication to helping him live.

So why did he go off without her?

Was love too strong a line that he couldn’t break free?

I don’t know. Won’t even pretend to know.
But this I think: We want this life to be our all. We want this to be our reality.

But it isn’t. My mom knew it. My friend knew it. I know it. I want to impress my children with it.

Jesus rose from the dead. I expect to too.

My faith embraces a life beyond. But I need to make it real. Make it mine.

If I died tomorrow, I would say, in spite of the tough childhood family scene, in spite of the self-centered, culture-believing lies I’ve lived… I have been redeemed, and I have had a great

No regrets, unless that maybe someone I mistreated wouldn’t know how much I wish their forgiveness.

I write this, and I hope I can grasp it so firmly that it is my reality. When I leave this body, I will be with God forever. Think about this next week.



Monday, March 23, 2015

Finding creativity when your house is full and your mind is blank

Next month I will take part in a presentation on creativity. This is ironic because the most creative thing I’ve done in weeks is switch out one of my usually plain outfits with a combination I thought was more modern—a choice my daughter tactfully suggested I reconsider.

Creativity, according to one author, thrives in messy and unusual environments, unlike logical, analytical thought that prefers order. But I beg to differ.

During the months after my father-in law died and our nest was empty again, I fell into the pleasant routines of walking the dog, writing, and working at leisure. While luxuriating in so much free time, I signed on to teach several workshops, all of which are happening this spring.

But empty bedrooms beg occupants as zealously as nature fills a vacuum. Needing a place to stay while they were selling their house, my daughter, her husband, and their two dogs moved in. And although we are all getting on notably well (except for our dog who’s clearly not happy to share her pack) my ability to hold a thought longer than one sentence long has fled.

It’s an art, I think—that ability to focus in the throes of interruptions. For example, as I sit here trying to grapple with a thought or two, my husband comes in, sits down to put his shoes on, and asks if I think he’d make a good king. I don’t even want to follow up that conversation, so I roll my eyes and get out another sentence before the guest German shepherd starts whining to go out, and my daughter comes down and wants to chat.

My first inclination is to blame my inattentiveness on getting older—a suspicion that was fostered during a recent trip up North. Since we were arriving at midnight, I booked a room in a hotel that was supposed to be about a mile from the airport. While we waited for the cab, most of the other passengers disappeared into the dark, wintery New Hampshire night.

Finally, a tiny yellow car pulled up. The driver hopped out. Although the wind chill must have been hovering in the teens and snow banks lined the road, he wore a baseball cap (on backwards), a bulky Bobby Orr hockey jacket, and shorts. He popped the trunk and directed us to put our luggage on top of the spare tire and jack occupying the dirty, narrow space.

Another man emerged from the shadows, slid into the front seat, and we were off. Our driver chatted about this and that—said he “couldn’t complain about anything because no one would listen anyway.” The man in the front seat said nothing. We drove out of the airport straight into rural blackness. No street lights, hotels, diners, or other establishments typically near airports. Five minutes . . . ten minutes . . .. Not a creature was stirring, not a speck of light.

Now I begin to wonder. I wonder if I’ve called the right hotel. I wonder about the silent man in the front seat and the odd driver wearing shorts on a freezing night. Movies with places like the Bates Motel surface in my mind. “I thought the hotel was a mile from the airport,” I say.

The backward baseball cap in front of me bobs. “Well, I guess you could say that—as the crow flies, (ha ha). But there’s no way to get there directly from here.”

I glanced at Bob and squeezed his hand. Several minutes and miles later we arrived at the hotel. Relieved it was just a quirky cab ride, and I hadn’t misread the hotel information in some senile booking moment, but had, indeed, gotten us a king room at a great price, we took our keys and approached the door, right off the lobby.

The tub-less shower and low hanging closet bars were the first clues.
I had reserved the elderly-friendly, handicap-accessible room.

As far as I’m concerned, the jury’s still out whether creativity thrives in disorder, but this I know: by the grace of God my body doesn’t need wheel-in showers and low-lying appliances, but my mind needs order. Hats off to those who can write and think and create while tending children and fending off distractions. 

I love my company and their canines, but I know my limits. So I've walked the dog, kissed the husband, and fled to library where I hope to create and concentrate in peace and quiet—or, at least, say hello to those of you stopping by.

Blessings abundant,