I woke up this morning alone in our bed. It was still early and as I was slowly waking up, I ran my hand across Al’s side of the bed and it was already cool. Such a strange feeling that was. I remembered that last night he told me he had to get up early and head downtown for a follow up appointment for a minor eye surgery he had on his eye last week. Aging! Along with the years, particularly if you have traveled a long way down the road of your life, you find that you are in a constant state of repair, just like that old car in the garage. Our motors are still running and our bodies get us where we need to go, but there is always something that needs fixing as the years pass.
Last week Al had an incident where he saw a flash of bright light, followed by the sensation he was looking through a screen door. He said ‘I am looking through a million black dots”. The Dr. told him that what happened was not preventable. It comes with aging, and the most important thing to do is to get to an eye Dr. immediately after seeing the bright flash…which is what Al did. He went to a Retina Specialist. The Dr. was able to repair the tear with a laser surgery, and said the dots would clear up in time. I was escorted into the room before the procedure and was able to watch the Dr. use this sci-fi looking head gear from my chair at the side of the room. I watched and listening to the “zapping” as he pressed the button that brought a bright light into Al’s eye to repair the tear. The dots Al was seeing were simply blood droplets that occurred because of the tear. Oh, and now he has floaters and these bother him even more than the blood droplets. The Dr. said the blood droplets would eventually be absorbed but the floaters are here to stay. He went on to say that the brain eventually learns to ignore them and I assured Al that the Dr. was correct because I have had those cobwebby images in my vision my whole life due to my nearsightedness. They are there and when I focus on them, I see them. If I don’t focus on them, they are minimized.
I continued to lay there thinking of our life and how quickly it could change. I thought of yesterday when Al brought in a stack of mail. In and amongst the Christmas Cards was a really nice thank you card from a friend who lost her husband not long ago. Most times the thank yous one gets after a funeral are the generic kind from a funeral home with a signature “The family of so and so thanks you for your”…and that is about it. This one appeared to be hand made and the minute I took it out of the envelope I was greeted by the sweet quirky trademark grin of our now deceased friend. I couldn’t help but smile. “Hi Roger”, I thought to myself. I then opened it and read a beautifully hand written note where his wife expressed how much she appreciated our card and letter after he died. She apologized she hadn’t sent this note sooner, but wrote that as she was working through her list of names of friends and checking them off as she wrote her notes, she found it to be one of the hardest things she has ever had to do. She went on to express how difficult it was for her to write these notes to life long friends because she had spent her entire adult life with this wonderful man making these friendships and now she was without him at her side. On the inside of the card on the top of the page where she wrote her note was a photo of her, along with her husband, their two girls and their grandchildren. They represented the legacy she and Roger had created. This note moved me more than any other note I have ever received in regards to someones loss. Her love was so blindingly obvious in the care she took in putting together such a beautiful card.
As I thought of her, memories came flooding back to me of others we have known in our general age group who died, some as many as 10-15 years ago. As visions of each of these people strolled through my mind, stopping for a moment in the spotlight of my memory, I was once again reminded of how fragile life is. When we are born there are no promises for how long we will live. We’ve been told our “time” to die is written in life’s book, but WE don’t know when that is. We have been told many times over to live IN the day, and I think when we are reminded to do this, we try to do so. But, life seems to carry us along on a strong current of busyness and we unwittingly and quickly go back to assuming we will be here for years to come. We write in dates on our calendar of events we plan to attend, and vacations we plan to have, assuming this will come to be. In reality, we DO only have this moment. It would be good to practice “mindfulness” in the moment, the art of just being, noticing our breathing in and out. Noticing our life force. Appreciating our life force. Appreciating the gift of life in general.
Christmas is soon here. In the stack of Christmas cards, I open one from a woman who lost her husband many years ago when he was only in his early 50’s. I can still see his big dark smiling eyes in my minds eye. I think of her being alone all this time and am reminded of the gift of my husband. I am reminded to focus on the gift of his presence in my life. Christmas is about he ultimate gift. The gift of salvation bought at the cost of Gods own son. This gift means that our departed friends are still alive, but in a different way and a different place. Hallelujah for that! I know their loved ones take comfort in that, but also know that they live with a hole in their heart from the loss of someone they loved so much, but carry on as best they can.
As I approach Christmas I make myself a promise. I promise that I will focus on the reason for the season. We are celebrating the birth of the baby who was the LIGHT sent into this world to pierce the darkness, bringing with Him, the promise of eternal life. I also promise to live in the moment of my family’s presence as we gather together to worship in church, eat our Christmas dinner, and open the gifts under the tree. Each person who is here, right now, is not guaranteed to be here next year. So I shall delight in their love and laughter and presence. Maybe I should say that their presence is the real PRESENT after all. The best gift ever! Merry Christmas everyone!