Sometimes people leave us before we properly get to know them. Such was the case this week. Sitting through fellow hospice choir member Alan Parker's memorial service was, in a way, like an extended family reunion; the stories, the sense of connectivity like the knowledge of a shared ancestor. This man was part of my "tribe" - and many others - but because our time together was spent making music for others, he was still like a distant relative to me. I knew I loved him, as I love everyone in that wonderful group, but the personal bond was still forging. We were united by something bigger, something outside of ourselves, and hadn't yet spent more than a few moments actually conversing about our own lives. I figured we'd get around to it eventually, but...not now, not on this plane.
I am unbearably sad about that.
As a minister, Alan would have been the first to offer consolation, to point out what a party it will be when we finally meet again. My head knows this, and my heart believes it too, but to process it all I have to walk through the flames of grief, not around them. To mourn my way to the other side. And so, I share here the poem I wrote on the day he died, a day that felt longer than any I can ever remember. A dark night of the soul kind of day.
And maybe, knowing that grief for not only what we've lost, but what we will miss out on can be felt just as intensely, we will have more compassion for those around us who grieve.
Today is a gift -
I am trying so desperately to remember that -
as precious and ephemeral as a pleasant dream,
not the slow, tortured tearing of a band-aide that it feels like right now.
The wounding? - that was sudden.
A blinding flash,
exquisite in its intensity,
and hopefully - blessedly - soon over:
Such a pretty sounding word,
an oh-so-lovely descriptor for a vile, desecrating thief.
Don't you dare take our friend! - I want to scream -
our brother, our any-number-of-other monikers
that cannot fully describe ol' "Black Socks'" bounce and sparkle,
his self-amused voice ringing in my ears,
his tears unchecked against ruddy cheeks
from that last moving melody,
imprinted forever on my soul,
along with the friendly bear hugs I'll continue to crave - Give him back!
But death never listens.
I'd hardly gotten to know him,
was still acclimating to his irreverent sense of humor and goofy camp songs,
still learning to lower my guard
and grow into the person he already saw me as
in his all-accepting way.
There are still songs we should have learned together...
Too soon I will be asked to help celebrate Alan's life,
to sing his praises and his passage,
and to find that place within me where I can think of him joyfully elsewhere.
But, today it is still just so unfair.
Today, stretched by grief and punctuated with abbreviated memories,
is for mourning my loss.
Today is a gift.
And yet... not all gifts are welcome.
With the graduation of my middle child from high school this year a new era is ushered in. No, not the empty nest, not yet. As parents of a late-in-life bonus baby, that is still a long way off for us. But we are more than halfway there. What I'm talking about is the shift that occurs when the older children finally realize just how easy they had it while Mom & Dad were paying for everything.
Our eldest recently graduated from college, a cum laude double major, and is fully launched. She has worked hard the last few years, both at school and to earn a living, so she gets it already. Our son is moving into his junior year of a double major, and though he's still living at home this summer and driving one of our vehicles, he's almost there. Our third child, the one who recently graduated high school, is just getting her wake-up call. A little respect and deference now and then suddenly seems a paltry price to pay for the benefits of childhood now that the cost of emancipation is stacking up. Phone bills, gas, entertainment, and other miscellaneous expenses gobble up summer paychecks quicker than you can say "unlimited text and downloads".
My kids scoff at my insistence that a pay-as-you-go phone is more than adequate for their needs. Heck. it's all I've ever had! Recently they went out shopping for new smartphones and plans; prioritizing needs over wants is something they are becoming familiar with, and for them, a good phone is a must.
My priority list is a little more practical by default, especially as it applies to stretching the family budget. But then, I've been a party-pooper for a lot longer; doing without, choosing sensible go-with-everything shoes over the perfect pair of expensive ones, reinventing leftovers, recycling hand-me-downs for our large family - the list is longer than my grocery receipt.
The two working, non-rent paying adults came home with sleek new phones and frustrating, barely workable phone plans for our mountainous, limited coverage area. Having set out to overcome the parental "sensible" phone route, they were determined to modernize, do or die. And so they have, complete with the headaches of poor service and spotty reception, all for a pretty penny more. I just smile when they grumble; it's not my problem anymore.
More current isn't necessarily better. Most of us recognize that in one way or another. But, having bought into the new plan, all we can do is suffer through it. God forbid we admit Mom was right, at least.........not for a few more years.
Yep - I have a theory. Actually, I'm chock-full of them. I have so many theories, they are popping out of my ears; good ones, weird ones, impossible ones, conspiracy ones, simple ones, and sometimes even life-changing ones! The trick is nurturing them past infancy.
What more is a theory than an idea, a musing? A guess at how, what , when, where or why? Look at it that way, and you'll see that you have plenty of theories too. Eventually, these ideas may escape into the world to either solidify into fact, or at least swirl the waters of curiosity/doubt.
One theory I've been kicking around for some time now is that ideas are like viruses. They float around looking for a likely host, touching down here, falling from the tip of a tongue there, until they finally find a warm reception. A place to blossom and grow. Sometimes they don't and are lost entirely, but more often than not they find more than one home simultaneously, and then the race is on! Ideas like the combustion engine, flight, vaccines, rap music (really?) cell phones - you name it! - everything we know started with one small spark that smoldered into flame and, in its own way, made the world a different place. By being a willing receptacle we become the means by which the seemingly miraculous occurs.
People like Tesla are fascinating, don't you think? Nikola Tesla was one big idea factory. Not only did theories breed in his outrageously active mind, he worked tirelessly to develop them into reality. (His thoughts on eugenics and gender equality aside, the man really had a lot going on!) Things like alternating current motors, radio (sorry, Marconi!), even the remote control in every couch potato's hand - these ideas found a home first with Tesla. Much of what he contributed would perhaps have been lost to us without his willingness to share his ideas. Indeed, much was lost when ego got in the way.
I'm no Tesla. But instead of focusing on who or what we aren't, what would happen if we were all more open to the possibilities of what might yet be? Someone out there is the next Gene Roddenberry (creator of the Start Trek series), whose fantastical telecommunicater is now as common as toast. (I'm still waiting for the transporter!) An idea harbored today might float out into the world to become the next, greatest thing to find a new home with an enthusiastic host.
But only if we put it out there.