Monday, June 19, 2006

Lessons and Blessings



In my very first entry in this Journal I wrote something to the effect that I have been blessed in many ways – including some that many might not consider blessings.  At the time, I left it at that and alluded to a possible future entry to explain.  Perhaps Father’s Day lends itself to such an occasion.


The gentleman appearing at the top of this entry is my dad.  He will be 85 this year and I think you can see the life and light in his eyes from this photo taken on his birthday last year.


What isn’t evident from the picture or his demeanor was that the picture was taken at a nursing home and it was his first full day there, following hospital rehab for injuries from a fall at his home.  It was his third time in the nursing facility for rehab since his stroke almost three years ago.


Dad was always an impatient man.  He moved quickly and expected everyone else to keep up with him.  He had the energy of 6 younger men it seemed – mowing his own lawn or shoveling his own snow – and that of two or three neighbors for good measure – golfing at least twice a week and driving anywhere and everywhere.  And then his stroke took away the use of most of his left leg and hand, slurred his speech and affected his ability to swallow – and now all of the things that came so easily and quickly take painfully long periods of time to accomplish,  and then imperfectly.


To watch this proud man become dependent on others for the basics in life has been painful, and to watch him grow weaker over time yet still fight to live in his own home (with assistance) has torn at my heart on so many levels and in a thousand different ways.  I watch him grow weary of life, and - sometimes - I grow weary for him and with him.


But this message is about blessings – and that is what I consider my dad and every moment we have left to share.  Each day, this strong, quiet man teaches me lessons about life and patience.  He fights not to give in to his limitations, yet demonstrates a sense of grace in handling them.  The frustration shows sometimes, but he rarely complains – and each night he says his prayers and asks more for help to others in need than anything for himself.  I know there are quiet times when he wishes this burden will be taken from him, but his grip is still strong and purposeful, there is still a look of steel on his face when he needs to dig deep to do something most of us would take for granted – and there is still that light in his eyes.



Our parents continue to teach us long after we’ve grown.  The lessons themselves and the method of instruction may change, but we should always be wise enough to stop and listen – for we still and will always have much to learn, and the teachers, and the blessings of what they teach, will not always be physically with us.

Friday, June 9, 2006

Life from life



Last fall I wrote here of the loss of a different kind of friend – the tree outside my bedroom window that always helped me greet each new day.  She is now split and stacked and protected from the elements under the deck, seasoning so that she can warm me one final time this coming season.


In her place last fall, I planted a new tree – small and spindly by comparison to be sure, but a reminder of she who once stood so proudly and a reminder that life goes on despite loss.  I rushed against the changing seasons to prepare the site, chose her carefully and planted her straight and tall in the sloping ground.  I fed her roots to help them unfurl and grasp her new home firmly, provided a stake to which she was lovingly secured to fortify her against the January winds and driving snow – and then watched anxiously during days of bitter cold and howling wind in hopes I’d done enough to help her start her new life safely.


As the days grew longer and the temperatures more mild, I checked every day for signs of life – gauging what I’d been told of her growth patterns against those of other trees in the yard.  And then one day, in the soft glimmer of a cool morning sun, I saw an unmistakable bud and – the closer I looked – more and more of them.  In the unseasonably warm Spring, the buds grew quickly – filling every branch with burgeoning life that grew larger and stronger with each day.





One morning, the air was filled with a rich, sweet fragrance.  Fuchsia blossoms that had delicately sprung forth overnight quivered in the breeze - and a bumble bee already busied himself, drawing sweet nectar from the tiny trumpets even as they began to open.  Birds chirped in approval nearby – perhaps planning a few years down the road when these same branches would be strong and sheltering enough to protect the births and first tentative flights of their great-grandchildren.




Now the blossoms are gone – replaced by shining, healthy leaves that reach eagerly toward the sky, seeking the nourishment of the sun and capturing the gentle rain for her roots to drink.  I visit her almost daily, both to ensure that she is appropriately nourished and to proudly watch her grow.


On the roadway behind the house and down the hill, the hustle and bustle of life and commerce continues - unabated and uninterested by this quiet microcosm of all that is good and right and full of light and new life – and all too soon it comes time to go back inside and deal with the issues of the day.  But each morning from now on, the space once occupied by my beloved friend will not seem quite so empty anymore, for she who now stands in her place will draw strength from the same soil and carry on her legacy - and the world will seem a little brighter place as a result.

Monday, June 5, 2006

Lighter than air




My last few entries have been a bit on the heavy side (some might say ‘preachy’, although you’re all too kind to say so), so I thought I’d lighten things up a bit with this entry and simply share a few photos from a hot air balloon festival I attended the weekend before last.  Some additional pics from the event are located in the album posted in the right column.


As your week begins, I hope your spirits soar in gentle breezes, that clouds are few and that sunshine brightens your days……