This week was one of those weeks where the mundane was swallowed up in the extraordinary - not just in my life but in the lives of many around me. Tonight as I dissect each event, I have a strange mix of both joy and sadness, completeness and loss, renewed energy and fatigue all coming together in a cocoon of stillness and resolve. It's rather overwhelming actually.
On Tuesday, a precious man in his senior years who had been critically ill for many weeks, and chronically ill and in pain for many years, finally let go. He left behind a wife, children, grandchildren, extended family and friends all of whom stood on that "line in between" for weeks. Two days later, a young man - a husband and father, son, son-in-law and friend, and a man barely at the beginning of his adventure in adult life, took his last breath. He had lingered on that line in between for a couple of weeks as a result of a horrendous automobile accident. There, his loved ones stood with him filled with faith, tenacity, determination and the spirits of warriors fighting for a miracle. During the course of these few days, I heard from two more friends who had lost someone close to them.
Around the same hour of the memorial service of the elderly gentleman, my son came home from work. We began speaking of the service. One thing led to another and before I knew what happened, we were trekking down "memory lane." My son began asking questions - questions he had not fully approached with a full desire for understanding in twenty-one years. They were about his father who had passed away when he was only four and whom he had actually not even been around since he was thirteen months old. Through the years, I had always offered information as his curiosity required, with full transparency yet not with forcefulness. I knew in time when he was ready, he would inquire about those years that seemed like ancient history to me in one way and yet as fresh as the morning light was to me today. For some reason, yesterday was the day that my son wanted to take that walk down memory lane. It was a moment I had patiently waited on all these years. After over six hours of honest conversation and transparent emotion that vacillated between laughter and tears, pain and joy, we both parted ways in sheer exhaustion. As I sat alone in the stillness, more tears began to roll down my cheeks. I had revisited some painful moments in the recesses of my mind and heart that left me feeling both sad, and strangely at peace. Those memories took me on a few detours into the night as I thought of my Mama Rich and Paw Paw - my daddy's parents who had stood at that line in between, as well as thoughts of my other Paw Paw Weeks who had been there along with a few of my aunts, uncles and even a close friend.
It's ironic how the death of someone we love causes us to think ever more fervently and soberly about life. For a moment at least, the true treasures around us sparkle more, the moments we share become more precious and our desire to make some changes more resolute. There are many "lines in between" that we face - not just from life to death, but from childhood to adulthood, from youth to middle-age and more. We face those lines when changing jobs, moving away from family and friends, charting a path for education, career, or relationships. There is always a "line in between" in our beginnings and endings. Sometimes we are torn between the fear of letting go and the fortitude of holding on and not being quite sure of what to do. Is holding on to a loved one, believing with every molecule of our being in healing or a cure, an act of love? Or is letting go of one who is suffering an even greater act of love? Is moving far away from family and friends to pursue an education or career path that will benefit ourselves and possibly some of them in the long run more prudent than staying put and helping those who depend on us? Will ending certain friendships or relationships while opening up to new ones bring peace, promise, resolve? "To hold on or to let go" that is the question.
Sometimes we are George Bailey - the unsung hero that many take for granted, and sometimes we are his brother Harry, the decorated soldier of war that is welcomed home with a hero's celebration. We might be the single mom whose only lives that we impact are that brood of children under our care. Yet in turn, one of those children becomes the scientist that invents a cure for some dreaded disease, or the firefighter, policeman, doctor, nurse, or professor that touches the lives of many. Facing those moments at that line in between is inescapable. There is no one right answer or wrong answer in such cases. There is only the one that whispers in our heart and that bombards our mind day and night so that until we either hold on tighter or fully let go, we have no peace. I guess what I am learning is that peace is the gauge; not what seems right, not because others tell me what is right but because what my heart and mind, soul and spirit know is right. If your spirit says "hold on" then grab on with both hands until you are white knuckled pulling that person or opportunity as close as possible in prayer and in determination. If your spirit says it's time to step over the line to the other side even when you don't see what's there, then take that leap of faith in full confidence that you will land sure footed. If you feel that it is time to let go and step back or step away so that those with you can either continue or complete their journey, then take a deep breath, say a hallowed prayer and with total abandon and trust, let go.
There is a "line in between" that runs down the middle of the circle of life, that determines the meaning of life, that is the essence of life and that leads to the fulfillment of life. It is also there that peace is found.
Dedicated to the memory of "Papa" who though crippled in body, ran his spiritual race with patience, and to the young man named "Angel" who finally got his "wings" as he left his earthly path for his eternal destination.