~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ~
I will never forget you. You are painted into the canvas of my life, in the deepest and truest of colors, by the master hand of the great Artist who first brought us together. You are within my soul. You are light and life, vision and meaning, hope and the dreams from which all hope is crafted. I will never forget you. What you gave I cannot repay, but I can always honor. Who you are, I cannot replace, but I can forever cherish. And one day in time to come, where love finds an eternal home, I will call you again by name, and see you as you see me now. (Bishop S. Charleston)
Throughout this week we have taken time to honor and remember the men and women who have bravely served our country, defending and protecting in situations unimaginable. While flags fly high and the air fills with music of national pride, people have paused to remember.
Memories most often rise as stories As a chaplain I have listened to stories told by women and men who served in conflicts as long ago as WWI. It is humbling to listen as these memories are shared with pride and sadness. While stories are repeated – as if to get each detail in perfect place – I know not to interrupt their telling. With respect, I have heard about battles, losses and rescues from people now small in stature and frail by age. Something important happens as these stories are shared. I have watched youth and energy rise, transforming the person who is sharing. Time suspends and memories are brought alive in the telling.
I have also been present when there is a quiet pause in the conversation. Some memories cannot be told in story, either because they are bound by vow or too painful to make real once again in words. In those moments honor is given in silent presence.
This world spins at a pace often too fast for memories and stories. We are a better people to set aside time to listen and remember. By doing this we experience renewal of youth and strength.
May we find ways to slow down and listen. The stories told reveal something unknown in each of us – calling us to learn from our history and give thanks for much sacrifice – given to protect us and save others from harms way.
and so a new day begins…
We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny,
but what we put into it is ours.
Destiny’s frame may not be chosen but there is always a way to stretch its boundaries. An example is the image within the ‘frame’ reflecting my life, a life filled with curiosity and grace. Many would not believe what I have packed into my own frame and there is still plenty of room.
It is important that I begin to reflect on what ‘fills’ my frame acknowledging those who have assisting me in this work. Much of my journey has been achieved with companions willing and strong. Each day someone walks through my door to assist me. If I tried to list the names of all these companions/caregivers we could very easily end up with a small town! From nursing students to professional barrel racers (cow girl and her horse), from women who were native to Switzerland to women who have barely been outside their small, rural American town.
Germany, Sweden, Latin America, and across this country – I have been introduced to the world in a most personal way. I have learned to be surprised by nothing even when I hear the care assistant say she received her first gun at 10 (probably not the most shocking but something that can be shared). I have learned to listen, been counselor, presided over marriages and sat by hospital beds and joined care assistants in funeral homes as an advocate or a shoulder for support. Boundaries — oh yes, it is a task to keep boundaries clear with those who work with me day in and day out. Their job is extremely personal which often requires living with ‘grace in the grey’.
This is a community of people who continue to ‘walk’ the road with me, joining me as support to be independent. Their diversity keeps me on my game. Their willingness allows me to continue my work stretching Destiny’s frame. Their presence reminds me to remain grateful.
“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” -Anne Lamott
Hope – with it we are able to take that first step forward. It is so very important but it is not something that is always easy to obtain. Rising up from the deepest place within us, hope requires work and determination.
Recently I have been aware of how much energy is required to be hope-full. I am now a breast cancer survivor(x3). I have been a survivor since the day I learned of my first diagnosis 19 years ago. This was four days before I celebrated my 40th birthday and having breast cancer was the farthest thing from my mind.
That is how it happens. While moving through life with plans and ambitions, the path changes, abruptly and with little warning. In a single moment on a normal afternoon, I was told I had breast cancer – a diagnosis that would change my life forever. Enveloped in the bright light of a doctor’s office, all plans dropped away – priorities shifted – I started living as a survivor.
So I have found myself once again inthat single moment. In December I sat under the bright lights of a new doctor’s office to hear I had breast cancer again. Being a survivor feels empowering and overwhelming. In my experience it does not matter how often you face a new diagnosis the resolve to continue life as a survivor has to be made anew.
I am inspired by the survivors I have known and know today. These women and dear friends have shared their living stories with honesty and extraordinary courage. During my new ‘single moment’ I honor and remember these amazing women. They have taught me much about living life to the fullest from day one.
Hope does find a way. From learning of the first test results I learned how hope would reinforce the ground underneath my nervous stance. I know this “stubborn hope” that Anne Lamott describes. It is what stirs the courage to take my next step in life. When the news seems unbearable and the options for healing sound impossible hope has been there.
Like a seed planted deep into the ground, hope has taken root within, creating a strong foundation to support my steps toward the gentle light of Dawn.
(This video is one of my favorites. It has been my inspiration on more than one occasion.)
Ally Carter, My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories
Photo – Ashes and Snow (Gregory Colbert)
A gentle person treads lightly, listens carefully, looks tenderly, and touches with reverence. A gentle person knows what true growth requires. A gentle person knows that true growth requires nurture, not force. Let’s dress ourselves with gentleness. In our tough and often unbending world our gentleness can be a vivid reminder of the presence of God among us. —Henri Nouwen
In loving memory of my dear friend, Mattie Collie. Her unwavering faith and gentle healing spirit brought wholeness to many who sought her care. Her heart was filled to the brim with love and compassion for each person graced by her presence.
You are forever missed, Mattie and we forever blessed by knowing you.