I was at church last night and I saw a young couple in front of my wife and I. Has it been that long since the lithe figures in front of me was something readily seen by looking at a mirror? Nostalgia, a remembrance of half forgotten days that seem more whole than the stored fragments show them to be. And then I looked upon the dusty turntable and put some vinyl on the plate. The arm fell with a click, a few pops were heard, not unlike the noises emanating from the early morning stretch. And the music played. And tune after tune rose from the twin boxes in front of me. The sounds that were always in my mind was playing between my ears and then a smile. A person that grows and learns is never old. One need not be defined by wrinkles and added girth. As long as a sense of wonder remains, time’s arrow always moves forward. No matter the age, adventure beckons. Sense it, hold it, go for it. And live.
One of my favorite musical theater performer died this week. Rebecca Luker. Beautiful lady. Beautiful voice. Beautiful soul.
In the wee hours of the morning, after another restless and near sleepless evening, I started listening to music. The notes played on and then I suddenly realized that at that moment, I wasn’t really in the room. My mind had wandered back in time, remembering a time when family members who are but a memory were still breathing the same air that I breathed. And in that moment, I found myself wondering. What is really important in my life? And in nearly the same instant, I thought about the people who are forever part of me. I didn’t remember the clothes they wore. Or the places we have been. I thought about how much I was loved. And how this feeling that never goes away always brings balance back into my life.
I was taught so many things by a great many people. The most important lessons were not imparted with words, but through actions, through example. Kindness is not optional, even when it is difficult to give. Respect other people, even when you don’t agree with them. Be generous to others, for what you have, even if earned, is a gift given to you, not to be hoarded, but to be shared. Speak the truth always, but never harshly.
And then the present, or the near present, came back to me. Sometimes, just seeing and being with someone is enough. Your heart always finds a way to tell you what it feels. And in the music, joyful and hopeful as the dawning of a new day, I remembered the thing that gives life to a life. Love. A gift, a treasure. A memory? Sometimes. Transient? Not when it is true.
The crescent moon shines brightly in the quickly darkening sky
Twilight receding, stars ascending and in front of me
Stands mighty Orion, with Rigel’s light blazing forth
And to one side sits Canopus, with the brightest star in the sky
Looking down on me as I gaze upward one more time
And see the beauty that only the sisters can bring
The seven forever chased by the hunter
And as the winter stars meet the horizon ever earlier
In a slowly changing dance, a sequence of moments, each a memory
Spring will come soon enough
The past will be past, but like the stars that circle the earth
They remain with us, reminding us
That what we treasure is not lost
For they will always shine brightly in our hearts
As long as love endures
When I think about the things that happened this year, I want to go to a dark room and make everything go away. And just like the college campuses around the United States that deem it necessary to isolate people supposedly investing their time to learn new things, experience a world outside of what they have known, and learn that life is full of the unexpected, it seems that the temptation to only feel, hear and see the good things in life is the answer to a life that doesn’t always have answers to questions that come about. And yet, to shut the world out because it’s not what you want is to deny yourself the essence of what being human is all about.
Life is a series of events that in its eventuality is unstoppable, in its unpredictability predictable. This year has seen the death of someone very dear, the death of others that have filled my head with ideas and my heart with love. There was sadness all around. For the realization that some voices will never be heard again. Some smiles will never be seen again. That a warm touch, that warm hug will never be felt again. The mind senses that change has come. The heart knows that change has come. The spirit knows that while change has come, the world still beckons and that which are gone truly still live in our midst.
A Christian believes that the promise made by a loving Creator becomes manifest in the birth of a child. Whether that child was born in squalor matters not. What matters is that the God who created us all kept His promise to His people. That love, true and unerring, triumphed over disappointment. That forgiveness and mercy is more powerful than hate and betrayal. That in giving His people His son, knowing that He in turn will be betrayed by His creation, God showed us the possibility of what we all can become. If we let love reign in our hearts, we are capable of making the world we live in a world that all of us, whether we consider our self a child of Abraham, whether we follow the precepts of Buddha, whether we find solace in the spirits of the forest – all of us the can transcend the limitations we place upon ourselves. Respect one another. Care for one another. To see people not as impediments to our ambition but truly as a brother or a sister that we can nurture and love.
In the spirit of this season, we can find in the people around us, the world around us reason to be hopeful. To be inspired by those who do small things and seeing countless small things bring joy to those who give so wholly of themselves. I pray that today, we remember that salvation did not come with a proclamation of greatness. It came from a Father that loved us all, from a couple who devoted themselves to the care of a child entrusted to their love, and eventually, the willingness of this child to give Himself wholly for the people He and His father loved. In spite of the hatred and spitefulness heaped against Him, this Son of God and Son of Man gave Himself up to serve all of us. To purchase, with His sacrifice, our salvation.
Love, freely given. And today, we remember, if we so choose, that we are children of this same Father. That like His son who died for us, we are tasked to take care of the world around us. To be stewards of His creation. To love all of His creation. It is not always easy. There are disappointments. In the end, it is this selfless love that must inspire us to live a life of generosity. Of giving. Of sacrifice. Forgiveness. Charity.
Peace on Earth. It starts with each one of us. A small act of kindness, magnified a billion fold. May each of us be a reflection of the love that made life possible. And worth living.