I tend to write about “letting go” and “dying” a great deal. I don’t do it intentionally. It just seems an overwhelming theme in my life these days.
Perhaps it’s the result of aging. We tend to lose much as we grow older. Here are some thoughts and “stories for the journey” about all this.
When I was 10 years old, I was uprooted. I was plucked from the flat Texas earth, the oppressive heat and humidity, the lazy pace of long days to the fast-paced blur of the Philadelphia area.
Dirty. Cold. Dark. I hated it. Cheese steaks and pretzels with mustard? What the heck was that stuff? Dad’s work had transferred him to the Northeast so I didn’t have much choice.
Still. I was displaced. And not feeling at home, not one bit.
I share this story not as a “poor-me” event, but as a life-changing one. It made me realize that at heart we are all aliens — that we are all “displaced people” whether we like it or not. No matter our spiritual or religious beliefs, or lack thereof, we all seem to be aware that this is not our home.
That restlessness that settles on our spirit and rattles us at odd moments or wakes us in the middle of the night? That is our soul reminding us that “home” is not here; here is temporary. Within us is a deep longing for our true home. I think that’s why we resonate to movies like The Wizard of Oz, E.T., The Castaway or more recently The Martian.
Here are some stories:
I bumped into a family friend and his wife a few months ago. I had heard she had been diagnosed with cancer. But I hadn’t seen them in some time and when I did, I had to hide the sharp inhale of breath, the shock of seeing her so changed — frail with a haggard frame and a cap covering her shorn head. Despite that, she smiled and we chatted. They told me the cancer was inoperable.
And then, she pointed to her husband and said:
“He wants me to sit around all the time and do nothing. But look at me! I’m alive now! Here. Now. I’m not dead yet. I have things I want to keep doing.”
After the brief conversation, we all hugged. I felt life and warmth. And the wisdom of her words.
Another woman, Joey Feek, is now in the process of going home. Joey is part of the famous country music duo Joey + Rory and a few months ago, her cancer returned. She is at home now, with her husband Rory and their precious daughter, Indiana, who was born with Down Syndrome.
I follow Rory’s blog (and you might want to as well: http://thislifeilive.com/) and I am always amazed, that despite the pall of sickness and death around them, this family is always bringing joy and light to the world, with their music and Rory’s inspiring words.
Then there is my dear dad. He is still with us, but after suffering a stroke three years ago, and at 89 years of age, I wonder how much longer he will be here. My heart will break when he goes home to God.
So, yes, I do write a great deal about dying. Perhaps it’s because I most need to learn and accept this lesson. And what lesson is that? That death is the sharp edge that defines life, gives it depth and meaning. Dying and death point the way to life, showing us that life exists only in the present moment.
We can accept with grace and gratitude that for now we are given life to live on earth — to enjoy the caress of the wind on our face and arms; the scent of perfumed earth after a summer’s rain; the skip of a child lost in complete and unbounded joy.
The truth is — “now” is all we have. It is a gift. A grace. And it is enough.
Sue Monk Kidd, one of my favorite writers, says this:
“We have to acknowledge sometimes that this moment is enough, this place is enough, I am enough … it grounds us in our being. It grounds us home.”
So, in this sense, perhaps we are always home. Now. In the moment. Never truly displaced.
And how beautiful is that?
(I have deep Southern roots and this is one of my favorite Gospel hymns, sung and recorded by Joey Feek, as she was undergoing chemo treatments. It makes me cry. No matter your religious beliefs, this song poignantly speaks to “coming home.”)