No getting around it

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.
But that is not for them to decide.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born,
and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

― Mark Twain

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the
intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body,
but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke,
thoroughly used up, totally worn out,
and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

― Hunter S. Thompson

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(image of Christ crucified, Rapperswill Polish Museum, Rapperswill, Switzerland / Julie Cook / 2012)

Death…
There is no getting around it.
No bailing out.
No avoidance.
No free pass.

It is the proverbial truism…
Death…
and of course those blasted taxes.

It comes to all of us, at some point in our lives…
Be it tragically, prematurely or thankfully…
One thing is certain, it will come.

Driving home from the store this afternoon I drove past a cemetery with a freshly dug grave
close to my line of sight.
Having recently buried my father-n-law, then having rushed a feeble dad this week in for IVs as he’s gotten himself in a dangerous predicament, death has been a frequent thought.

Death is certainly disrupting.
It disrupts obviously the one who it just whisked away…
and it disrupts those who are now without the one Death so rudely, or thankfully, took away.

Picking up the pieces is, more times than not, an emotional nightmare.
I’ve done my share of picking up and I’ve not much cared for it.
But haven’t we all….

There is such a finality to it all.
No reruns, no redos, no getting back.
It’s a done and done sort of deal.

It’s the ultimate in being robbed or stolen from…
And I don’t like that.

Yet if given the option of living forever, I would politely decline.

For life is hard.

Oh don’t get me wrong, Life is grand as well,
but overall, it can be hard.

Yet I feel an odd sense when pondering death…
something I really don’t like pondering…
as in, I’d rather not think about it.

I don’t like thinking about being separated from those I love…
Me from them and them from me.
Of things moving merrily along without me.
I would be so sad.
Yet is that not our ego…thinking we just need to be here, in the thick of it all…
Or fretting over what we might just miss…

And then there is the wondering of exactly where might I be headed.
Up, down, all around….

I like to think I’m headed in the right direction…
Being a follower of the Resurrected Christ.
Having confessed, and confessed some more, those egregious actions and sins of mine…
and then trusting in God’s promise and Holy word…

Yet what human, no matter how much they profess, claim, proclaim and believe…
isn’t plagued by questions?
If you’re not, nor haven’t been, your’e a far better person than I…

Yet I do know that the Prince of Darkness loves to whisper in the ear of the faithful
all sorts of gobbledygook, lies, half truths and falsehoods…
Inserting and sowing doubts, worry and fretting wherever the ground seems fertile.

Then I worry about being alone…
as in left alone
Not in the book series but rather here by myself all alone…
I don’t like that.

Yes there is indeed lots to ponder when Death happens upon our door…

Do you remember when you first learned to swim?
I almost drowned at the age of 5 during that process
but that is not my point here….the point is remembering the process.

Chances are you stood on the edge of the pool or on the boat dock
or at the edge of the lake or up on the sand at the beach…
A parent, or older trusted individual, was below (or standing in the surf)
treading almost effortlessly in the water, arms out stretched, waiting for you
while they coaxed, encouraged, implored or even pleaded with you to jump…
waiting patiently for you to come to them….to their strong open arms…

It was an overwhelming feeling.

Big and deep, murky or clear, cold or warm, the vast body of water waited along with a loved one.
There was a bit of excitement, of wonderment, a sense of mounting adventure.
Yet there were also the nerves, the worry, the anxiety, the predisposed need for survival percolating upward from some deep recess of your hypothalamus (that part of the brain responsible for fight or flight).
The internal struggle of should I or shouldn’t I was raging in the span of just a few minutes.

Some of us may have needed to run through this routine a couple of times before working up our nerve or building our trust.
We may have had to run to mom, or someone perched on dry land who could reassure us that it was going to be ok.
We’d work that nerve up again, and again…facing that great challenge,
all the while knowing that we weren’t really going this alone because there was that person who wanted to love us and protect us, who was waiting for us in that water…

Learning to swim is not just something done for fun…
it is a true life survival skill.
A skill our parents and loved ones want to instill in us.
There is the benefit of swimming for fun and pleasure, but don’t let that fool you, it is a survival skill plain and simple.

I kind of like to think Death will be a lot like learning to swim.
There are the nerves and the trepidation.
The fear of the unknown.
But then we see Jesus, with His arms outstretched.
I see the wounds in His hands as He stretches out His arms towards me…
There is peace in His eyes…
He voice is calm as He beckons…

It’s going to be ok,” he reassures…
I’ve already done this, so don’t you worry…..”

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
John 14:1-4

To sleep, but to dream; to wake but to yearn

“I dreamt — marvellous error! — that I had a beehive here inside my heart. And the golden bees were making white combs and sweet honey from my old failures.”
― Antonio Machado

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
William Shakespeare

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(the beads of tiny rain drops appear as pearls upon a spider’s web / Julie Cook / 2015)

Routed out of slumber’s silent realm
waking in the harsh dark reality of that what was,
for was, was but a dream. . .

Again the dream, each time is different
Yet the meaning and emotion quite the same
To be. . .
Embraced
Enveloped
Loved completely

It may not be you
but it is some form of you
Sadly having never seen you
nor achingly never having known you

But you are there
kind and nurturing. . .
Missing you,
longing to know you
to see you
to feel you
to see your face,
seeing mine

In sleep you are elusive
Seemingly present, yet not.
In waking, you have never existed
Emptiness fills the heart

Fleeting and just out of reach,
Your smile fills the void
To be loved as in the dream,
In the reality of waking,
leaves the heart spent.

Tears fall as the pearls of a broken strand
worn beautifully around your neck
But that I could gather them up
giving them back to you,
pouring them gently into your warm hands
For in the dream, you are warm. . .

Your eyes tenderly enveloping the now grown child
You see nothing negative, just joy
in what stands before you—
How different would it all have been
knowing you?

You remain hidden
In the shadows of a sleeping mist
You are longed for in wakefulness
A haunting specter longed for in
a dream

Life’s unexpected surprises

Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.
Henri Nouwen

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(perusing the soon to be blooming shrubs when I notice a little visitor / Julie Cook / 2014)

Perhaps this is a bit of an odd assessment by Father Nouwen. . .his thought being that our expecting a surprise being the only way in which we may “see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us.”

How is one to expect a surprise?!
How is one expected to expect the unexpected?
Is not the whole point of a surprise just that. . .a surprise?
A surprise is unexpected and indeed a surprise, that’s how it works right?
We don’t know it’s coming.
We’re caught off guard.
Blind sided.

And yet perhaps that is the gist of Father Nouwen’s assessment—that we should always be prepared for the unexpected.
Meaning, we shouldn’t exactly start walking around nervously looking over our shoulder 24 / 7, nor should we be living in a constant state of paranoia. . .but rather, we should be living with the knowledgable of the fact that life is constantly full of surprises and moments that are truly not expected nor planned. . .some of which are not even welcomed.

Surprises and the unexpected are just a few of the multi colored threads and cords which bind themselves to those events of our lives which are indeed well thought out, planned, and expected. We have control over one part of life’s woven fabric. . .not so much on the other half—Yet it is both pieces of cloth which make us whole.

It is therefore the wise individual who can wear these two fabrics as one. The one who can take the cloth of expectations and plans, the cloth of control and preparations and knit it to the cloth of surprises, the unexpected, the curveballs, the bombshells. . .knowing that both sides of this fabric is what makes us who we are.

The joys and the sorrows, the seen and the unseen, the planned and the surprises are those very threads which intertwine, weaving the magic of the development of who we actually are. Simply put, we must not live in fear of the unseen and unexpected happenings because like it or not, they will come. They will happen, and as Life has it, when we least expect them and are least prepared. There will indeed be the days of “I did not see that coming. . .”

And yet what Father Nouwen is merely stating is that we should simply acknowledge these occurrences within our daily lives. The unexpected should, simply put, be expected. This acknowledgment will allow us to leave our hearts open— as such occurrences of Life are part of the shared experience of our very humanity. The good, the bad, the happy, the sad all go in to making, forming and moulding each one of us as an individual— and in the end, when it is all said and done, we will truly be the better for it all. Is this not how understanding and empathy are forged? Is it not these shared experiences, be they good or bad, that lead to making us more human, more kind, more sympathetic, more concerned. . .?

All of which is forged and woven in the daily furnace and loom of what we call Life. . .

Necessity is the mother of all invention~~Plato

A faith is a necessity to a man. Woe to him who believes in nothing.
Victor Hugo

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(Image of abandoned bird nest in Julie’s yard / 2014)

The bird believes he can build a nest.
Building a nest, to the bird, is a necessity.
The bird believes he can find what he needs in order to build that nest—be it twigs, leaves, or in the case of this particular bird, plastic.
There is no worry nor concern as to whether the materials will be available.
The bird does not fret.
If there are not the twigs, there is the plastic.

What of you?
What is your worry, your concern?
Do you believe or do you fret?
Do you have what you need or do you complain and lament?

The bird makes do because he doesn’t know any difference. He must have a nest and therefore whatever is available must simply do.
Man on the other hand frets and worries because he does know the difference.
Man bemoans what he does not have.
It is not always easy to adjust or make do.
Man worries.

Faith equates trust.
Worry negates both.

Our faith, the faith which so many toy with, discredit, scorn, scoff. . . tells us to be not anxious about anything. We are extolled to offer everything in prayer and supplication, doing so with thanksgiving. We are to make all requests known to God. Not just some requests, but all requests, all concerns all worries, all frets. . .

We are confidently reminded that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds—all of which is to be in Christ Jesus.

Therefore as the bird, we must believe that we will have what we need, when it is needed.
We must not fret.
We must not worry.
It will all be there, whatever it is, it will be there exactly when we need it, that is, if we need it.

To have Faith.
To Believe.
To have Hope.
Trusting in what is unseen.
Needs will be filled.
The necessary will be made available.

Can you?
Should you?
Will you?

Believe.

Woe to those who do not believe.