It's official: as of last night I no longer can count a single WWII veteran among my acquaintances. I've long used this as an unspoken yardstick against mortality. I've watched these veterans, in our family and social circles, leave this world one by one and now the last one I knew has passed.
G may have been a couple of generations older than me but this didn't impact how my husband and I saw him as a friend. Sadly, we allowed ourselves to be too consumed with work to get to visit him in his final days and I'm aggravated at myself over this. There is no excuse.
When I started going to church again regularly (after years of disillusionment), G was one of the first people I met. I always felt comfortable around him; he had lived too long and seen too much to turn around and view anyone with any sort of spiritual suspicion. He wore his best flannel shirt and took the hat off his head when the opening songs began.
He was the only man to ever get me a baby shower gift. I remember writing thank yous and poring over the cards I'd saved; amongst the pile of flowery notes in women's script was a simple card with the word "BOY" on the front and inside G's shaky scrawl. I still have this card. I wrote him a thank you note in careful print so that he could read it. After I had Ewan he gave me a framed copy of something he wrote, an essay about how women are a blessing.
He wrote essays every week and made copies on the church's Xerox machine before distributing them to the congregation every Sunday morning before the sermon. Sometimes he gave you two copies. I always missed the first part of the sermon reading them. I think G knew it, too, and after a while I noticed that intentional or not, he gave me my copy after the service. He was a fantastic writer. He wrote with a humility that can only be attained by a long life of trial and error. There was an urgency in his words, through them he tried to gift others the benefit of his experience so that they may see things more clearly, earlier.
After a while he stopped writing due to his failing health. It was always difficult to make out what he said before but even more so at the end of his life. His voice was so quiet that you had to lean in to hear him. He never complained. He was too worried about being of service to others and pleasing God. Most people my age think it's enough just to make getting through the gates your goal. Service to anyone doesn't factor into the journey. This was a lesson G embodied. Isn't it weird how people appear in your life at the precise moment when you need an adjustment to your perspective?
I'm not writing this for condolences; I know that G is in much better company than we here on earth could have ever offered him. We were fortunate to know him and learn from him. He lived a long, beautiful life and while I won't assume to know the inner-workings of Heaven, were I a betting gal, I'd say that G walked through those gates hearing "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
If you've spent any amount of time reading this website several things will be very clear to you:
- I am completely neurotic
- I am a cynic
- I am (some would say irrationally) scared of flying
of this came to a head the other day when I received an email from an
organization inviting me to fly to India, all expenses, to write about
this charitable organization's work and hopefully bring attention to
the children who so desperately need sponsors. I am not going to lie:
not four days before receiving this email did I tell Chris, upon
watching a travel program together, that India is the last place on
earth I would ever want to visit - unless for the sole purpose of
finding and beating that outsourced Dell tech who smarted off to me
last year when he said that my computer problems may be due to "the
women and their silly typing with their long nails." That's when God up
in the sky rubbed His big God hands together and laughed like a
vaudeville villain and remarked "I'LL SHOW YOU" in a James Earl Jones
I immediately came up with a mental list of reasons I cannot go:
- all of the bullet points listed above
- I hate curry
- I'm a germophobe
- Securing sponsorship or funds for Chris to accompany me
- being separated from my family
- possibly crashing into the sea which would really suck
- going with a group of total strangers
- the flight is over 30 hours
says that it's a wonderful opportunity but that there is no way on
earth he feels at ease with putting my 5'5" frame on a giant metal
aircraft and launching me over two oceans to face the journey alone.
one can protect you like I can protect you," he said quietly, and when
I rolled my eyes he was all "So they can say that crap in Twilight and you women swoon but when real actual men say it you roll your eyes? Good grief!"
now we're feeling out some sponsorships for him to go because he
insists on taking the bullets should we be ambushed by a group of
terrorists while helping the children who are living in abject poverty.
And also he would like to ride an elephant.
I told my mother,
who is very much like Kath from "Kath and Kim," how long the flight was
and she immediately launched into some story about how if you sit with
your legs up for a period of time you will get blood clots in your legs
and die! And the terrorists! And also the water! They don't have Imodium in India!
When I broached the topic with my children
and pointed out where we would be on the globe and how they would stay
with their grandparents Liam was all "SEE YA LATER!" and Ewan asked for
me to bring him back a monkey. "With cymbals, mama."
night I spoke with the guy organizing the trip and I attempted to
astound him with my neurosis. He answered all of my questions with a
smile in his voice and I could tell that my concerns are ones voiced by
others who've gone on previous excursions. I related my concern about
terrorists and of falling out of the sky.
"I've practiced free-fall moves in my living room floor, I said.
"If you wear baggy clothes you'll fall slower" he replied.
He didn't make fun of me. Score a point towards going.
the three biggest obstacles in my way are my anxiety, the cost factor
of Chris accompanying me as his presence is sort of a make or break,
and my concerns for the boys.
I'm being funny about all of
this but if you looked at my soul it has the face of Shelley Duvall
right as Jack Nicholson is breaking through the bathroom door in the
last action sequence of "The Shining." In non-dramatic layman's terms:
I am scared.
Mother Theresa once said that if there is a hell on
earth, Calcutta is it. I would be going to a hell on earth to observe
and document the divine and hope even when it seems least likely to be
present. I'd be going to write about the help that the sponsoring
organization does for these children and hopefully encourage more
people to sponsor children in third-world areas. The vast disparity in
cultures does not intimidate me; the knowledge that I will have my
heart wrenched from my chest and wrung out does not give me pause. Leaving
the protection of my country's borders during a very weird time,
leaving my young children (which pains me to even write it), and breaking out of my own head all give me
concern. I'm a prayerful person; it's something about which I will have
to pray more. It's the opportunity of a lifetime, yet, so is raising my
family, should my biggest fears manifest.
I don't know what I am going
to choose but I have to give an answer by Wednesday. If I decide in the affirmative I'll give the rest of the details then.
I don't know why I'm presenting this to you ... for comfort?
For some magic comment that will erase my anxieties? To ask what you
would do? All of these and yet none of these, but I want to hear it
anyway. Please don't judge me for having honest concerns.
(And please also say a prayer for us.)