Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Goodbye Again

The concept of goodbye is a final thing.  We try to cut the pain of farewells by saying "see you later" instead of "goodbye".  Goodbyes are for finality, for closure, and when we bring ourselves to a place of uttering the words, it symbolizes that somewhere in our hearts and in time a door has been shut that we cannot go through again.

Except that... I do not believe that goodbye is so final.  I revisit it over and over again.

A few days ago, while hiking on a pristine trail in Hawaii, I saw you on the trail in front of me. Mixed in the browns of the dirt and dry plants, the specs of green that clung to grasses, you were there: an almost-perfect heart shaped leaf, bright red, lying in the dust at my feet.  Now there were plenty of your kind of leaves on the ground, but you were the only heart shaped one.  Instantly my mind flickered to the dear friend you remind me of: a beautiful tall blonde with melodic laughter, brimming with presence and life, sass and accents.  So I picked you up in my hand to take with me to keep and press between the pages of my Bible with other leaves and plants I had picked up over the years.

As we walked together, I remembered other journeys of this kind I had taken with her.  There had been other mountains, bigger and more rugged than this one.  We had breathed deeper together than I was doing now, we had gone higher, we had sweated until our eyes stung in one season and shivered and watched one another's lips turn blue in another.  We shared beauty and darkness, laughter and tears, were serious and ridiculous.  A saying we would make fun of was "It was real..." And yeah, it was.

At the end of the trek, I knew that you would not be coming home to be a Bible bookmark or permanent reminder of the day.  We ended at a stream, clear and cool, that journeyed into nature lined with trees and flowers, and ended in the ocean.  That is where you belonged.  And so I placed you there and watched the current carry you out of sight.  And silly enough, I felt emotional about it. Not because I was saying goodbye to you (no offense), but because I was saying goodbye to her again...  And I knew I always would be.  I mean c'mon, if a leaf can surface my love for her then it will happen often. 

In unexpected places, without warning, sometimes inconvenient, but always welcome... I expect to find reminders of her that let us trek on a mountain, laugh at hilarity, wish to hear her insight, enjoy just being... The reality of those left behind is that we live in goodbye, and it makes us sad.  But I am also thankful for simple things that will have me saying hello to you over and over again, until that day when there are no more goodbyes.  Miss you like stink my dear Annie, and love you forever.

What if...

I went out for coffee with a dear friend. We don't see each other often, but she is the kind of person whose depth and wisdom and joy meet me at a soul level. No pretentions, no attempts at being surficial, no skirting around one another's hurt. Just raw and real... And refreshing.

There are reasons that she can enter this level of vulnerable, a path where few dare to tread. One reason is because she is naturally amazing, and has always been someone who has radiated life and depth, and a genuine caring spirit that can really see people. But that natural disposition has been brought to another level, a level that has authority to it. Illness and its pain has brought her to a place that wellness and blessing cannot go.

Most of the people who try to encourage her, do it like this: "when you are well again, then ... (insert blessing here)". These people are good hearted. They want her to believe in a future. They hope that these thoughts will give her resolve to help her body fight back. But be wise, those who wish to encourage this way... You're forgetting something.

The present. The now. The obstacles to the future you are dreaming for. They are real, and they are here now, and they may never be hurdled.

My friend shared that one of the greatest questions she had been asked was "so, what if... you don't ever get better?"

Ouch. But the wise second part to that question was: "If... You don't ever get better, what are going to do to live fully today?" Do you know what that question does to a person who is in the midst of suffering? It reminds them...

They are still alive today. There are still good things to experience today. That blessings and joy are not only for the whole, and not only in the future. This conversation has continued to resonate with my soul.

I identified with my friend that day, as someone who is sick and who has found it hard to be encouraged by a great future that so many well meaning people have said I need to be healed to enter in to. I strongly caution anyone who believes that any blessings of God are to be reserved only for the whole to rethink the concept of grace and give your head a shake.  For the people who don't have healing in their earthly future, the promises stand true; not just the eternal, but the day to day. 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Arthropods in Africa

When it is time to go to Africa, the one thing that creeps me out is the bugs. Spiders, centipedes, scorpions, mosquitoes that carry death, beetles that are the size of your hand and have vocal cords (I have heard some of them scream)... When I am here, thinking of there, the bugs scare me. There is a part of me that knows that they will find ways to invade my house and my space, and that I will have to come face to face with them. From a distance, I am afraid of the bugs in Africa.

There, it is different. When I am face to face with them, the time to be afraid is past. When a scorpion (or several) have invaded my tent, and I am searching them out in the black of night with a headlamp to make sure my sleeping space is secure, sandal in hand to crush them, it is too late to be afraid. The only way I can secure my house is to not act out of fear.

Recently I was faced with an equivilant to an African arthropod. At the thought of it, I was afraid. I imagined what it could do to me, how it would affect my future, why it had come. From a distance, it made me afraid. For several days I dreaded it in a deep place; the thought of it made me ill; I was robbed of joy. And yesterday, that thing came. With the derailment of all the plans I have made as of late, the time to be afraid was over.

I don't think that arthopods in Africa and facing fear in life is a perfect analogy. If it was, I would break down every aspect of it with a cheezy line of peppy encouragement. But, that's not how I roll. In a nutshell:
Bugs gross me out.
I don't get God when I think about them.
Unwelcome, they invade anyway, and living in fear is incompatible with contentment and joy...

So I don't know if you have a scorpion in your house tonight, or maybe one at the door. Here's a secret: people dealing with bugs are under grace to deal with them. A dear friend prayed when I went that I would find wonder and not fear in all of the critters. That prayer stood firm, and I believe that is possible with figurative arthropods too. Another dear friend, who radiates life and beauty, has her own deep reasons to be afraid. But today as we shared truth and raw and real about the arthropods in our lives, she posed the question a step further ... What if we were to embrace arthropods, like Both Paul and James suggest. What if they are a gift that brings life?

Another secret is that everyone who has ever really had impending suffering - even Jesus - begged that it would not come. The third secret of the night, is that despite how you are feeling as you read this, when the invader gets in your house, you will be more ready to deal with it than you are now. You are being made ready. You are going to be ok. And I have decided that I am too.


Monday, 30 July 2012

Birthday Cake

I thought about you all day today; from the moment I woke up til the moment I went to bed. Actually, for days and days I've been thinking about today and thinking about you. Not that that is anything new, you run through my head all the time and the things I want to share with you. Things you'd find funny, like inside jokes that there is no one to tell anymore.  Sometimes I try to tell other people but they never really get it.  But hey, there is no one else whose name was my first word and the subject of my first sentance, so I forgive them. How could they possibly get it?!?!?

It's funny (peculiar, not haha) when a day just isn't a celebration anymore. A day of phone calls and well wishes and thoughts and milestones becomes dreaded. Silent. Almost overwhelming. The conversation I have with myself every day - wondering if you are really gone - lets the disbelieving voice be especially convincing today. Not possible, right? At least 3 times I traced the pattern of your number on my phone and wished that dialing would prove truth wrong. Because I am healing and therefore not totally crazy (though I get how it happens), reality sets in with its force and the debate stops. The loss of you always saturates me and every part of my life, but it is the moments at the end of the debate that it hits me the most. Waking up from a dream, shaken into reality, hard to breathe.

But this post isn't about me, it's about what happened today, and it's about you. Today after bootcamp, a stranger said "It's our little girl's first birthday today, and we brought cake. Did you want some?" "Hey", I said, "It's my brother's birthday today too!" They're strangers so I can say stuff like that and they don't get all awkward and fidgity, which is nice. So this is what I did. I ate that little girl's cake, but I pretended it was yours.  I celebrated you.

  For the first time in a while I remembered that you being gone is not the most important thing; the most important thing is that you were here. Your life was too short... like an adventurous, unique, funny, love-and-know-me-like-no-one-else, nature loving, brilliant book with a terrible and untimely ending... A loved, dog earred, familiar book that I will treasure in the deepest part of my heart until the end of time. Though I lament that others cannot read you themselves and you have become a story, today is not for wishing. Today is for being thankful for what I had. You; my brother and my best friend. If I thought words would convey you, I  would type volumes trying to explain what the world has lost... But I don't think they'd get it.

PS: Readers feel free to leave a memory, if you so desire!

Monday, 11 April 2011

A Future and a Hope

I was leaving a friend's house late one evening last week when I saw her in the lobby. A tall, dark-haired, beautiful woman in her mid-40's, crying softly as she sat on the bench. When she saw me she tried to conceal her tears.

For a minute I stood and felt a little awkward. Fiddled with my phone. Thought about what to do. Prayed for wisdom.

So tentatively I asked her (not wanting to be intrusive) "it's clear you're not ok, but is there anything I can do?"

She shrugged. "How could you possibly help?" Is what I imagined was going through her head. But I asked again.

"Do you just need a stranger to vent to about whatever is going on?"

She made eye contact and moved over on the bench, giving me room. As I sat next to her and we exchanged first names, she asked me only one question in an accented voice: "Do you know what pain is?" I said I did, but did not elaborate. That is all she knows about any of my story.

As she shared hers, of abuse and betrayal and of dreams that died, for a moment we were close friends. She had now found a man who was good, and she was afraid to love him; afraid of what betrayal of love can do. She knows first hand the consequences. Every day she went to church to ask God for clarity. She trusted that He would answer her.

I prayed for her outside before I left, as she savoured a cigarette with her head bowed. Then unprompted she prayed for me too, and said a blessing over me. Then she grabbed my shoulders and looked me squarely in the eye and said emphatically "You need to know that everything's going to be ok. Things will be just fine again".

Now you need to know, in the last 6 months, I have been asking God to tell me that things will be ok again, someday. I don't know if I believe that yet, everything is still just too raw. And had anyone who knew me even suggested words like "fine" or "ok" I would have scoffed at them in my heart even if my lips agreed. What does anyone know of fine or ok who has lost what I have lost?

But from this stranger, her words spoke straight to my heart. She had been given a message to pass on to me, whether she knew that or not. It's hard to say if I believe it yet... But I have hope that someday I will.

So I don't know if I have ever seen an angel, but if I have, she is a tall dark haired woman who hails from another country, smokes cigarettes, and has been broken by pain. And from that place she has reminded me of a promise of a future and a hope.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Making History

It is referendum week in Sudan from January 9th to 15th. The Southerners are voting to determine if Africa's largest nation will remain one or divide into two. Please pray for the decision of the people to be held on both sides of the border, and that peace will prevail for all of Sudan's people. The results of the vote are set to be announced sometime early February.

Monday, 27 December 2010

The wind and the waves

I was in Victoria this last week, and one morning run took me down a cement barge and down to the lighthouse. The wind was strong that day, and waves crashed into the barrier and sent spray up and over the edge. One one side the sea raged, on the other the harbour was calm. Few of us made it to the end, and those who did arrived soaking wet.
The next day, my mom and I tried it again. But that day, the winds were even stronger. The waves were even higher. The danger was even greater. We were saturated by the waves, and battered by the winds. We did not make it all the way to the lighthouse. In consideration of safety, we had to turn back. I saw no one make it to the lighthouse that day.
It struck me, as we were heading back into the howling wind, fighting to stay on course, that sometimes, the only way to stay upright and on course is to walk into the storm. Thus far, it is a literal observation, but I am filing it away for when I will need it figuratively.