It has been a tough week or so. I have found myself in a kind of non-specific cloud of sadness and disquiet. I know exactly what is going on- it is life that is hitting me. It is life and transition and uncertainty and trying to stay focused on the important things.
It starts with making a sudden trip to support my wife's 95-year old aunt who needed surgery and a move to a rehab care facility. The questions of "What next?" and self-care and support are rattling around as I look at this very determined little old woman who has been independent and self-caring her entire life. She hasn't lived with anyone else since her father died over 40 years ago. There is a helplessness as I think about what my wife and I can do to help or support her- from 1,200 miles away.
Then there is knowing that while I am out east I can visit my old and most important friend who is facing significant health issues. We have talked and I know what's going on there. To go visit him is essential and heart-wrenching!
The third thing has been hitting a wall in my writing. There is obviously something I am digging toward in the work and I am hesitating in some ways about finding it.
On the lesser side of the issues, yet surprisingly emotional for me, is the series of TV shows as David Letterman ends his incredible career. I have been watching wistfully each night watching him move toward retirement. Having been in the midst of that myself this past year I have a strong sense of what he is going through. Since he is in my age-cohort, I am also watching the end of my generation's work on late-night TV. That, for me, requires a post all its own. Letterman has been a TV guide/guru/friend for well over 30 years and I am saddened as I am reminded of the incredible passage of time.
Perhaps it is not the "lesser side." It touches on my own journey. Like the other three it is what I have often called "intimations of mortality." Change sucks- even planned change- because it means we are getting older. We may not notice that until we do begin to notice that we ARE older. No, I don't believe we Baby-Boomers have invented aging. It may be, though, that we are the first generation to be able to truly experience aging into old age- and experience it with better health than ever before. When people say that 60 is the new 40 it is both a denial of aging as well as a statement about how aging has changed in the past 40 years.
But then the final blow came when I learned of the serious auto accident and eventual death of the 18-year old son of a friend. The young man was about to graduate from high school. He lost control of his car on Sunday and crashed. He was in an induced coma for several days, but was unable to recover. I fond myself prayerfully focused on the family over several days, even coming to tears for them and their personal tragedy.
The helplessness of life is what we most fear. My 95-year old aunt, my friend's health, my own inability to move forward with a personal project. These of mine are brought up short when I ponder the death of an 18-year old who will never get the opportunity to find out the ups and downs of life. I am humbled in pain as I think of parents losing their child so violently and in such a purposeless way.
So I have to put life into perspective. Mine, my friend's, my aunt's. I am sure that Letterman would be the first to agree that his retirement- even his achievements- are nothing- he was only a TV entertainer. To come to grips with loss and change and finally death is the reality of life.
I pray that in the end the quality of life- short or long- may not be dimmed by the pain of losing it. I pray that each day of life may be filled with an awareness of how important each day is and how important it is to live a life that touches others in their hurts as well as our own. To live otherwise is to truly lose sight of the great daily gift we have had.
No, this does not get rid of pain. But perhaps it can give us a perspective that helps us walk through it and be there with others when they need that companionship.
For me to live otherwise would deny everything I profess to believe. It isn't easy- and it is at those moments I can repeat the old but eternally true word: I believe; help my unbelief.
May the soul be cleansed and
held close to the Creator.