Thursday, August 13, 2015

Rambling thoughts on time, loss, memory, and being present

Beginning in late spring, we fixed up our extra downstairs bedroom, repairing some water damage to the ceiling, adding a new ceiling fan, and changing the furniture to create a comfortable guest room. It is good to have a guest room on main floor for summer guests because we have only one air conditioning vent on our second floor. Upstairs guests are subject to the whims of summer weather.

Into that room went a rug purchased from my niece, a quilt bought several years ago from the MCC sale, and the bedroom furniture that was given to my Schmidt grandparents upon their wedding. The room could still use some wall decor, but I love its simplicity.

I also love remembering my grandparents every time I walk past the door of that room.

One morning about a month ago, I sat at the edge of that bed, freshly made with sheets smelling of summer sunshine. How can it be that my grandparents' bed has more permanence than my grandparents themselves? We talk so often about how we over value our possessions. People are so much more important than things, we affirm, and rightly so. But things outlast generations. If I care for those pieces of furniture well, my grandchildren could use them someday, although without any memories of the two people who used them first.

The words from Ash Wednesday seem appropriate. "From dust you came and to dust you shall return."

When we were on vacation I saw a book about how to behave when you are older than dirt. No one gets to be older than dirt. As much as I wish for another conversation or joke or song together with those whom I miss, what I have instead is their stuff, their photographs, their memories.

I got my hair cut short recently and one of the remarks I remember was that the haircut reminded that person of Cookie. And even though our lives have moved around and shifted since Cookie's death, wouldn't it be fun to have a walk with her again? Where do I find the wisdom that resided in her?

Our vacation was planned around a main event---a Colorado camp out with as many of Chuck's family as could attend at one of his father's favorite camp grounds.

Chalk Lake

Devotions together

On vacation, the sweetest part of each evening was the time when uncles and cousins brought out their guitars, mandolins, banjos, fiddles and basses. I hated the ten o'clock quiet rule because I could have listened all night. I wished for Chuck's dad to be there among us, leading in his favorites, showcasing the talents of the grandchildren, making sure each person had a time to shine. Of course those things still happened. The grandchildren were still showcased. Each person's individual solos and parts were celebrated and enjoyed. He taught us well.

Impromptu afternoon music (I didn't take any pics of the evening jam sessions)

We visited the Sand Dunes after the Regier family ended their campout.

It was a fun day of unexpected cool weather and hiking, As we came down from the dunes we passed a family that had a dog who looked like Harvey. I caught my breath.

The next morning, after an amazing breakfast with Tim and Michelle at Patio Pancakes, I had some time alone. I realized that woven throughout all these experiences is the reality that my Dad is also gone. It was quite a soggy morning.

At the end of that morning, when I was trying through my tears to tell Chuck my thoughts, he showed me a devotional that his mother had highlighted years ago from a book she often took along to Colorado for family trips. The devotional is too long to reprint here but I'll try to get the main points.

The writer was telling about a long float trip he had taken down a river with a guide and group. Each day they made progress down the river and then set up camp quickly, leaving time to explore the beauty, learn the history, find the treasures. There was never enough time. Each day some things were left unexplored, some history left untold, some beauty left unseen. Always there was a sense of loss as darkness ended the day's activities. Couldn't they stay just a little bit longer? Surely the time allotted was too brief.

And...always there was a sense of anticipation for what lay ahead. More river. More beauty. More history. More conversations. More experiences.

This year the shortness of time and the losses have taken a more prominent place. I'm at the evening part of the day where I wish I'd had a little more daylight to do more of what I loved. It is a discipline to continue to remind myself of the adventures ahead, the beauty yet to see, the stories I've not yet experienced. In some sense, I fight it.

I'm reading a book called "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle. Tolle writes convincingly of how we circumvent our own well-being by insisting on spending most of our thought lives on the past or the future. We relive the past or fear the future instead of being fully present in the current moment. Of course, living in the present moment includes acknowledging the emotions that accompany loss. It also includes noticing the blessing of a quiet house, the cool smoothness of the wood floors under my feet, the beauty of a sleeping dog four feet away from me, the comforting regularity of my noisy wall clock marking the passing of each second, the tang and sweetness of yogurt mixed with sliced peaches for breakfast, the self care of freshly brewed coffee in my mug next to me. Being present in now also means letting the tears fall when they come, allowing the emotions to come and then fade without denying their reality or intensity, and without prolonging them beyond their natural beginnings and endings.

There are good things and hard things both to remember and to look forward to, and what I have is now. I have the goodness of now as it has been shaped by the past and as it shapes the future. I have my Grandma's bed to nap in with my grandchildren.