Transitions

Transitions

One visitation is ending as another one is scheduled to begin. I usually do my best to avoid a scheduling conflict, but there are only so many hours in a day. The allotted times overlap by about 30 minutes, and I feel the need to stand in the hallway between the rooms until the swap takes place. 

 

The first family is wrapping up early, and I am not sure why I am still standing in this spot, but I stay put. My post affords me the perspective of monitoring all entrances to the building, and I adopt the pretense of “Directing Guests to the Restrooms” when all the while I am primarily here to safeguard the transition.

 

Photo slideshows need to switch, but I wait until the last second to pull the plug on the TV. Doors are subtly closed and flowers are quietly shifted, but there is a muffled stir of activity in the background as the last few relatives say their final goodbyes. I move slowly but surely to close the casket after they leave, and we quickly refresh the refreshments in the reception area. A sparkling pitcher of ice water finds its place on the table next to the coffee, and I reach to toss an empty tissue box into the garbage. Right on cue, the second family rounds the corner. My pulse races as I move toward them as slowly and deliberately as possible.

 

img_0897I recognize it is this deliberateness which sets me apart in this moment. I have chosen to stand here in the in-between, not only between the two rooms, but between the living and the dead. This choice is one which I often question; it does not seem quite sane. Family after family enters these doors and each time I learn a little more about death, and a lot more about life.

 

More guests arrive as the clock ticks forward. They make their way to greet the family, circle by the casket, then their conversations settle around the refreshment table. An occasional laugh breaks out amidst the hushed tones. My eye catches the water pitcher as the disappearance of the last few drops signals a refill.

 

We carry on to each next thing, cycling through ups and downs as transitions between milestones mark time for us. Our view changes as life unfolds, and we can only hope to walk the journey with friendship and laughter, even at the very end.

One Word

One Word

The sun rose red over the palmetto trees this morning as I pointed my car toward the office. This last dawn of the year coasted into day while the waters of the Charleston rivers rested still in their beds. The morning stretched quietly before me. It was a reminder to me of the beginning. … Not the beginning as in a small time notion of a new calendar year, but The Beginning as in when light was separated from the darkness and the Spirit of God breathed eternal life into a formless void.

A movement which spreads from a few pockets in the online/blogging community is to choose a theme word at the start of a new year. Part of the idea is to pick a word to focus on instead of setting New Years resolutions. I have enjoyed participating in this challenge for the past few years, and can honestly speak to the ways I have witnessed the Lord shaping my thoughts and experiences around a particular concept. One year, my word was “embrace.” Another time it was, “new.” One year I waffled back and forth between “believe” and “know,” and I concluded they were definitely not one and the same.

This year, I am centering in on “wide.” Immediately as I type this, the children’s sing-a-long, “Deep and Wide,” begins to echo in my mind. Those lyrics are not a bad way to start off in my opinion. I certainly hope my waistline doesn’t get carried away with this theme, but I do want to spend some time thinking through the many facets of this word in the coming days. Widening one’s reach, widening perspective, wide arms of hospitality, wide eyes of wonder…

Here are some links to some sources of my inspiration:

One Word 365

Sarah Bessey: My #OneWord365 for 2017

What is your one word?

Eyes to See

A woman told me I was beautiful today. When the words crossed her lips, her voice was eager and sure. I smiled and hesitantly thanked her for her kindness.

We were strangers, having talked on the phone only briefly before this meeting, and we fumbled our way through a little bit of small talk until her excitement at having a guest in her home gave way to the formalities of a new reality I was there to discuss. I had come to her on a business matter a few hours after her husband died. His nurse said she was not able to leave their home, so I packed an office to-go and met her in her living room. A few moments into my explanations regarding the paperwork she needed to sign, I realized my new friend was almost totally blind.

She asked me to help her sign some of the forms so I moved to sit next to her on her green couch. I was close enough to see her eyes dance behind her thick glasses. The words she had spoken just seconds before suddenly seemed like a joke to me in the way that generalized compliments sometimes do. I was tempted to discount her sincerity and to brush off the possibility of truth breaching the boundaries of what her eyes could see.

The light in the room was dim compared to the bright sun shining into the windows, but it did not matter much to her. I held my ink pen to the right spot on each page for her as she slowly but deliberately signed her name.

What trust she placed in me to welcome me in as a stranger and to take me at my word for what she was signing. I had met one of her neighbors on my way inside, but there was not another soul to be found. As we sat, she talked of her children who had died long before their time a few years ago. She gave me instructions to place her husband’s cremated remains next to theirs at a family plot in the churchyard. I watched her as she talked, opening up stories of her broken heart and handing them to me as if for safe-keeping. I took notes on what she said, knowing it was up to me to make sure her wishes were followed.

As we wrapped up the paperwork, she offered me a glass of tea. I politely declined citing my need to get going to continue my work for the day. I asked if there was anything I could do for her before I left. After copying a few phone numbers into much bigger writing for her, she nodded with approval and said she could now get to work making some calls.

She walked me to the door and gently kissed my cheek as I said goodbye.

Again she said, “You are beautiful, my dear,” and I looked at her in wonder.

I walked away with a sense of gratitude for her vulnerability and a matching sense of pride in the patience and honesty which passed between us during the time we had together. For today at least, we forged a bond which carried each of us into the next moment; her towards the first night without her husband, and me on to yet another task. We stood as women on opposite ends of our lives; hers beginning to slow down, and mine continuing to quicken in pace. Our paths crossing was something to behold. It was nothing short of beautiful, and I am glad she helped me to see.

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