C.S. Lewis – (Surprised By Joy: The Shape Of My Early Life) “All joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still ‘about to be’. “
May I ask you a deeply and possibly painful question? (Feel free to surf onward now before reading on if you anticipate a thin layer of skin) Let me ask as gently as I can with all purpose of cautious sensitivity. How many loved ones in your photos have you had to say a final goodbye? I am unsure just how many for me, but I have been attending too many memorial services to count, especially within the last three years or so. One of my high school friends always says with a chuckle, “We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” as we stand near a coffin. Maybe it’s a matter of age. Might it be that the longer one lives the more family and friends pass away? That may be an accurate and reasonable statement. While reviewing my picture file I had a difficult time selecting which loved one to include on this post. You guessed it. Too many photos collected of those who matter having slipped through the shimmering thin veil. (Allow me to add right here a solid truth. It is authentically a very thin veil between where you sit now and where you will be after the “house” you reside in shuts off like a faucet. My February 2013 experience of near-death proved it personally to me. My body died…twice. Only partial brain activity remained. The story of that pivotal life episode is coming in a future post)
Renea was certainly a beauty on so many levels. We should have been raised together, but God had His plans. She was my half-sister. I, being four years older, never met her until after I had turned 18 years old. We struck it up right away. We could tell we had the same biological father. She too was an only child with the exception of her step-brother from another marriage. Unfortunately we seldom saw one another. Has this happened to you? You say, “Hey, let’s get together soon, okay?” (Crickets) Then Christmas comes and you exchange gifts and a holiday dinner. You hug at the end of the day’s pleasantries and festivities. As you walk out to the parked cars the expected words come, “Hey, let’s do lunch soon. I’ll call you in a couple of months.” Your reply is almost a default line stored for the occasion, “Sure, absolutely!” Months go by and…(Crickets). That’s our story. Once a year we saw one another, maybe during the occasional sweaty summer family reunion. Does this ring any bells? Then time waits for a call and all you hear are…(crickets). I’m to blame too. Where was my initiative to call her? Yep, I am guilty as charged. Our decades went by. Marriage happened, kids happened, life happened. We would see each other at a funeral or two. More decades went by. Email is invented and later we both discovered social media and connected more often. We found out about the sordid details in our lives of baggage and wreckage, some of which were strangely similar in nature. Suddenly, I was living almost 2,000 miles away from her in Buffalo, NY.
I had gotten wind of an attempted suicide. We connected on the phone where I asked her about it. She confided in me concerning hidden deep seeded wounds. She casually shrugged audibly saying they were no match for the sleep aids that soothed her demons. She admitted to an overdose she had orchestrated not long before. My heart broke as she mentioned how shocked she was to awaken in a hospital bed looking at ceiling tiles. She couldn’t understand why the pills didn’t end her life. I didn’t know what to say, but there was a mysterious awareness within of a lack of meaningful verbiage in storage. Disturbingly, Renea literally, physically laughed the episode off that day.
There came a time later when she wanted to come visit me in Buffalo to make a good week of it. Never before had we had the opportunity to share so much quality time together. I became a tour guide. We had a blast that never wanted to cease. I even took her over the border to Niagara Falls on the Horseshoe Falls side with a scenic dinner at the top of Skylon Tower overlooking the beautiful rotating colored lights on the cascading falls. For a sweet afternoon we also scoped out the brilliant town of, Niagara-On-The-Lake in Ontario at the mouth of Lake Ontario. To say it was a memorable, monumental time together would be a robbery of the joy we shared. We wept at the airport’s departure gate, grieving over the decades missed of fellowship and love. We did make efforts after I moved back to Texas to have dinners and laugh together again at family reunions and holidays, albeit few in between. Here, I must admit to regretting a fault of mine. Once I read a darkened email she had sent my way, questioning why we never fervently followed through with a pact we had made concerning being involved more in our lives. My reply was in the affirmative, but not proactive. I told her to let me know when she could come visit, spend a weekend, or just arrange for our families to stir up a cookout. You guessed it…(crickets). There was an acknowledgement inside me that she had sunk further down in depression and loneliness. Two years later, in 2013, I received a phone call that in a drunken fuzzy moment during a fight with a boyfriend, she had pulled out her pistol and shot herself straight through the heart. It was said that afterwards she laid there on her back, once again looking at the ceiling, took a couple of breaths and without a spoken word, left the “house” in which she lived.
I invite you to scroll up. Look at Niagara Falls behind us in the photo. Over six million cubic feet of water rushes over the crest line every minute. Standing on the banks you can literally feel the vibration under your feet. It races quickly down to the lower Niagara for a few miles and feeds into Lake Ontario.
What I share next is pure passion from extreme pain.
You and I have only so many allotted minutes going over our personal crest line. They are never recaptured. While gravity exercises its law, we eat, sleep, drink, play music, watch movies as more cubic feet per minute escapes our “upper years” falling to our “lower years”. After those precious moments flow down and around daily events, as well as mundane daily life, they pass on beyond our ability to retrieve, retake and rework. At the same time, sweet loves of our past and present are seeing their minutes going over the brink. However, some will have less allocated minutes to race over the cliff than you will and/or vice-versa. Which person will deserve the next memorial service that has touched your life? Social media is popping, cell phones are in our pockets as each minute reaches the eroding edges. Love, and love well your precious ones while the ability remains.
No more crickets! But it does allow for more fuel for the race.
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” – Solomon, (Proverbs 18:24 NIV)