I am just enough of a space geek to do things like travel to Florida THREE TIMES before finally getting to see a shuttle launch, read books called Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, and stay up late to watch the lunar eclipse complete with blood moon last night, but not enough of a space geek to learn the math required to study its intricacies and physics properties. I know my limitations, people.
It was a warm spring night and as I settled in to a patio chair at about 1 am, the only sound was the hum of traffic on a far away road and birds chirping their nighttime songs. After I refused to play fetch with him, the dog chewed his rawhide bone while the cat leaped into my lap and snuggled up against my chest.
The quietness of the experience was beautifully soothing. Early in the evening, the moon had been bright white and full. Many hours later, as it rose in the night sky and the eclipse began, a sort of etherial quality enveloped the whole back yard, like when you’ve turned off all the lights to quietly await the arrival of the surprise party victim.
I was glad that the occasion of a lunar eclipse afforded me the opportunity to sit quietly and just BE. This is something that is unfamiliar to me lately, but so necessary. So many things on my To Do list. So many connections to make for business and friendship. So many people to reach out to. Even when I can’t see it, the list swirls inside my head like debris caught in a tornado.
But this. This was a moment. No connections to make, no emails to send, no status to check. There was only scratching the cat behind his ears and gazing at a sight like this:
All I had to do was observe this beautiful illustration of the handiwork of God, spelled out in the alignment of the cosmos to produce perfectly precise shadows on the moon. It was a private moment – just me & God, the dog and the cat. And yet, the knowledge that it was a moment shared with humans all over the world made it somehow more epic than if I’d just sat there enjoying the quiet on any other night.
It was good to be reminded that when I allow myself the luxury of moments like this, I am more grounded. To step away from myself from time to time and soak in whatever is in front of me enlarges my world in a way the world wide web cannot.
You might say I experienced a total eclipse of my mind.
I have a confession to make.
I didn’t drink coffee until it became hip.
That’s right, people. No coffee. Until I was 40.
I used to love the smell of coffee – my parents drank it daily. Mom drank it black, dad added a little milk. The memories of their coffee breath stay with me still. But when I tasted it? Horrible.
And then someone opened up a coffee shop in Seattle and named it after a long-lost relative of mine from Nantucket, and I was hooked. You know how you will always remember where you were when the big milestones of life happened? That’s how it is with me and coffee. I remember vividly the day I drank coffee and LIKED it. I mean, I REALLY liked it. When a little storefront coffee shop called Starbucks opened in my town, my friend casually said to me, “Have you had a frapuccino yet?” Well, not even knowing what a capuccino was, I of course said no. So she bought me one for my birthday. I was turning 40 that week
I remember thinking, “what have these people done to coffee?” I mean, it tasted – so – good. That was 14 years ago, and I’ve never looked back. But I still wasn’t a coffee consumer at home. And then someone else decided that offering flavored creamers in the grocery store would be a good idea. I cautiously brought home some french vanilla creamer one day, dug out the Mr. Coffee we’d had for 20 years and only used a few times a year when company came over, and poured myself a cup of hot steamy feel good sweet smelling java. I took the bait and was all in… hook, line and sinker.
So, on this occasion of International Coffee Day, I salute not the coffee – but all those who made it possible for me to finally drink it.
What’s your favorite coffee drink?
Of course I remember.
School started the next day, so we took the opportunity to sleep in a bit. The attacks began as we were peacefully sleeping here on the west coast. It would be the last time in a long time that would happen. Peaceful sleep.
The phone jolted us awake. It was my nephew Steven, a first responder. “Are you watching this? Have you seen what’s happening?” As he launched into a description of the horrors he was watching on TV I felt the world slow down. What he was describing to me was a movie plot. Not real life. Not here. This is AMERICA. We don’t worry about attacks on our soil. Hollywood was playing its best trick yet, a’la War of the Worlds.
Although I knew they would talk about it the next day at school, I remember trying to shield my kids from the images. I had to shield myself at times, how could I explain to them why some people thought it better to jump out a window than to die huddled under a desk? My tongue went numb. But I know they felt it. The whole country and much of the world was in a somber mood and its depths reached to the farthest corners of our little lives.
The rest of that day found us going through the motions of first day of school preparation. Stopping by school later that day to meet the teacher of all things, all the other moms spoke in hushed voices while the teachers pretended everything was business as usual. It was surreal. It was unreal. Almost as if it wasn’t really happening. It couldn’t be happening. Some had loved ones stranded in other parts of the country. The uncertainty of our future was crushing.
And then, the stories came. Stories of heroism and stories of kindness. Stories of hope and stories of unity. Stories of missed flights and silent alarm clocks allowing that person to live and not die that day. Stories of hope in the midst of the cacophony of chaos. Before long, the stories of good outweighed the stories of evil, and that is what we clung to in the aftermath.
Yes, there is evil in this world. Jesus said the enemy came to steal and to kill and to destroy (John 10:10) If anything, the events of 9/11 brought that realization home for me more than anything else could have. But Jesus didn’t stop with stating the obvious. His next breath offered hope. “…but I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” I choose life.
I started a blog called Following the Way of Love more than a year ago with the intention of writing about my mom and dad as I sift through the remnants of their lives together. Well, not much sifting has been done. At least not in the sense that I thought it would happen. Oh, I had the best of intentions. And so did my brother, Ron, who lived in their house. We’d talk about getting together to look at photos and sort through their things that were still there and box them up or give them away or…Or?
When Ron died suddenly last month while napping after work, all that changed. All those good intentions went right out the window and now became sudden necessities. Now there was a mobile home that must be sold. Sorting ensued, but not the kind of leisurely sorting I had envisioned. This sorting was the kind done with a goal and focus on the prize. And what was that prize? Three days of selling off my parents’ lives in one dollar increments. The Estate Sale.
Phone calls were made. Photos sent by text messages to family members I want to make sure are included in the process. Ron’s worldly possessions were packed in two boxes for us all to look at together. More boxes were packed and brought home to be unpacked and reviewed by the family at a later date. God forbid one of them should say, “What ever happened to the ________ grandma/grandpa/mom/dad/Ron used to have?” and I have to reply that I sold it for five bucks at The Estate Sale. And that still may happen, for my memories are not their memories.
The enormity of the task was daunting. I systematically began in one corner of the modest mobile home where they lived and touched each and every item in that place. Yes, EACH and EVERY item. I’m not kidding. Treasures were found, to be sure. Memories were resurrected, sometimes prompting a smile, sometimes tears.
And while it was painful and overwhelming at times, I wouldn’t trade the task or give the tiniest thought to having someone else do it for me. For in dealing with the possessions of my family, I was reminded of how very blessed I am and what an adventure life is. The mugs my daddy bought on one of his train trips, my brother’s swim fins he used for bodysurfing the California waves, the silly round tins containing my mom’s sewing notions, a vase she picked up in the Old City of Jerusalem while on a pilgrimage to Israel. Life, as they knew it, was GRAND!
Countless neighbors have stopped by to shop and give their condolences. One couple even told me of plans to sell their mobile home and live in their motor home in the coming years until they find a small place to live out their final years. They want to spare their kids the agony of what I must be going through. Agony? Their comment took me aback as I realized I must face this task not with dread, but with joy in honor of the lives these few earthly possessions represent.
No, there is no agony here. For their children’s sake, I hope that sweet couple change their minds.
My mom was very big on sending out a Christmas letter to family and friends. They were always short and to the point, sometimes even just a little poem. Apparently, short and to the point is not exactly my gift:
Dear Mom and Dad,
A year ago today, mom, you walked from this earth into eternity, and I’m sure daddy was there to meet you. I know that in heaven a thousand years is like a day ~ so I suppose this year has been just a blink for you. For us, 365 days have turned into a year just like they always do, so I thought you might appreciate hearing how we’ve passed the time.
We waited till after the holidays for your memorial service, mom, so more people could make the trip. Well, let me tell you – that celebration of your life also turned out to be quite a reunion! Many dear friends from your Victory Chapel days were there and we had a party that would have made you very happy! Stories about you two were shared by several people; it was beautiful to be reminded how much you were and always will be loved. A few of the loved ones there that day have joined your party in heaven since then. I’m sure you were both there to welcome them!
Mom, your little brother Howard turned 80 in March, and there was a surprise party planned! You’ll be happy to know that we three kids and cousin Becky decided that after saying goodbye to both of you and aunt Norma within 11 weeks’ time, we’d had enough funerals for awhile and it was time for a party! And so, we went on a road trip. Daddy, you would have been so proud! I drove almost the whole way, and we made it straight through to Portland in less than 17 hours, including snow through the Shasta area. And yes, we did stop to eat! Uncle Howard was really surprised and it was such a fun party and a great chance to reconnect with so many cousins we hadn’t seen in years. We laughed an awful lot on that trip, and even took a driving tour of all the houses our family lived in in Portland, and even found a few that you had built, dad. It was a very, very good thing to do.
Nikki graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University in May. You would have been so proud of your granddaughter that day! We had a great group of family and friends there (even Kristin came out from Charlotte) and we made lots and lots of noise, just like you would have. It was the first big event without you, and you were missed! Ron gave Nikki your beautiful silver candelabra and we made sure to decorate the table with them at her party, so your practice of always using the nice things instead of storing them away kept your memory alive for us.
Daddy, I celebrated your birthday on May 18th in one of your favorite places – Yosemite!! As I rode my bike around Yosemite Valley that day, my mind wandered to how very important it was to you to share that beautiful place with your family. I was awestruck, still, at the majesty of Yosemite. It made me wonder about how you discovered it long before I was born, and what made you return there again and again. It’s a story I guess I will never know.
Meanwhile, Chris started working at Albertson’s as a courtesy clerk and really likes the job and his coworkers They seem to like him very much, as well, which I know wouldn’t surprise you in the least. He managed to save almost everything he earned over the summer to help reach his dream of going to Europe in the fall.
Speaking of Europe, the four of us spent a whirlwind 10 days in Italy in early June. What an amazing experience! I so wish I could sit with you and share our photos of Rome, Florence, Venice and everything in-between. You gave me the “travel bug,” and guess what? It’s contagious. The kids have it now.
This fall brought a true empty nest for us, at least for a few months. Nikki went back to San Diego, got a job in a physical therapy clinic and is taking classes to prepare for graduate school where she will study to be a physical therapist. She is sharing an apartment with two friends, and is doing it all on her own. Her future is bright, indeed! Chris left on September 9th for London where he learned to truly be an independent adult while living in an apartment in Kensington and attending classes at the University of London Union. He earned 12 units for college while there, and was happy to earn the best grades of his life! He came home in time for Christmas and will return to APU in January. He’s on his way to a great future, grandma & grandpa!
In November, Jim and I spent a week in Florida not watching the last launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery. We were invited by an astronaut. No kidding! As of this writing, the Discovery is still not in space. I know, I know – better safe than sorry. But letting go of a dream is very tough sometimes, and I’m still holding out hope that when it finally launches in 2011 I will hop on a last minute flight to be there!
Not that you were worried, but I just want you to know that all in all, we have had a pretty good year. Jim finished building a couple of beautiful custom homes and is waiting to begin remodeling a house in San Marino. We are looking forward to having the family over for the Christmas Eve ravioli feast, and anticipate all good things in the New Year.
Most of all, I want to thank you. Thank you for being such a wonderful mom & dad, and for the endless memories of our times together. Thank you for the legacy you bestowed on our family. Thank you for consistently living your lives according to the scripture, “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humblywith your God.” (Micah 6:8)
Until our joyful reunion some day, those of us left here on earth will continue to occupy our space as best we can. We’ll be just fine.
Your loving daughter,