“I’m glad to hear you are alright. Karen’s husband died last night so at least there is some good news. It’s been bad all morning.”
That was the note returned to me after I texted a coworker to let her know how my surgery went last Friday.
The message stayed with me, even through the grogginess of anesthesia and pain relievers.
Fifty-six years old.
Two children in high school.
A forty-seven-year-old wife and mother will now fly solo at her daughter’s upcoming graduation.
Three days earlier, Warren had received a call from his good friend’s spouse.
The vibrant forty-eight-year-old man had a minor stroke and was in the hospital. Could we please come?
“It just reaffirms that anything can happen at any second.” Warren said. “We were just talking last night about how neither of us has had much ambition this winter.”
(Albeit, this from the mouths of two workaholics.)
Unable to drive, I couldn’t attend today’s funeral services, so I contacted another office mate and asked her to pass along my condolences.
She messaged me that she would be happy to share my thoughts.
And then she asked if I’d heard about the death of another staff member’s husband…
* * *
Warren, me, and the kids visit Gavin’s grave every holiday.
Sunday afternoon, as I made my way to the top of the knoll where he is buried, I thought about the similarities between that day and the one almost twenty-three years ago.
Abdominal surgery made walking and the climb a slow and painful process.
Gray skies and rains mimicked the moods of the grieving.
No longer burdened by sadness or scourged by shame with regard to my son’s death, most of my connections with him are celebratory in nature.
But this Easter, as I trudged up the hillside, I felt the weight of others’ sadness.
How would our friend’s family survive on one income, especially without the added funds from the side work he does at home?
What will happen to their two college kids? Will they be forced to leave school?
Mixed with concern for neighbors was this blaring reminder, shining its high-beams directly into my eyes: It can happen. Anytime. Anywhere. To anyone.
None of us are exempt from hurt or tragedy.
There are no free passes.
As I thought about these people and their situations, an event from this past summer came to mind.
Some girlfriends and I had gone to a local fair and stopped at an eatery for Italian sausage.
Upon seeing the cook’s shirt, I shrieked with delight and asked him if I could take a photo of it.
He grinned and humored me, but not before saying, “Nothing but the truth. This definitely ain’tthe life I ordered. There’s been a whole lot of shit.”
Who can resist the layers of meaning?
Sometimes the dishes life serves up are undercooked and raw.
Sometimes they are burnt to a crisp.
Sometimes, and possibly more times than we acknowledge, what we are delivered is just right.
And sometimes we simply choose to look at our experience from a different viewpoint…
Refusing to let it ruin the rest of our day(s)…
* * *
And speaking in those terms, today I read this most poignant statement over at Daily Plate of Crazy.
“Erosion is inevitable, but not immune to transformation,” wrote D.A. Wolf.
The photo at the beginning of this piece is of a creek running through our property.
Flooding that occurred two years ago left this path littered with tangled debris, uprooted trees, and large deposits of earth and stone that had been scoured out from the lands upstream.
Many weeks of work with heavy equipment were exhausted removing obstructions from the water’s course.
Many more hours spent shoring up the edges between the earth and waterway.
“Erosion is inevitable, but not immune to transformation.”
There will be times when we sidestep life’s piles of steaming shit, when we dodge the path of destruction.
And there will be instances when disaster is delivered right to our front doorstep and we step into the mushy mess, right up to our ankles.
Circumstance might undermine our foundations, might even destroy beyond recognition that which we have come to know, but it cannot take away our ability to reconstruct the original or to fashion something entirely new.
Tragedy doesn’t diminish the simple fact that in every destructive image lies a reflection of something beautiful, and the occasion for fresh and wondrous growth…
If we look closely enough at what lies in front of us, we might discover the delicate balance between the destruction and the divine that coexist in our lives…