Welcome Home

Along with cooler mornings, this Thanksgiving has brought the reality of a dear uncle’s final days. He is a young man, not yet 60. Cancer has laid a stake in his body and isn’t backing down. His beautiful children and grandchildren made the journey to East Texas along with him. 

Tonight, after second helpings of dinner and dessert had been cleaned away… after a last round of card games and dominoes had wrapped up and victors declared, we gathered around our uncle, brother, and son seeking mercy and comfort through prayer.

To see my 90 year old grandmother hold the hand of her dying child and call upon God’s grace was heartwrenching. A poet once wrote, “How much fear can one woman carry? How many children can she stand to bury?” She has buried three children in her time on this earth. She will bury another. Her faith that brings a peace to her heart and fills her home with love and respect every Thanksgiving, is something for which I am thankful. Watching her children, grandchildren, and great children gather around her and her son in strength and admiration, is beautiful.  I am thankful for this.

Witnessing this uncle return to the home of his family, to be welcomed with open arms and so much love, is something for which I am thankful. Our family having the opportunity to say goodbye to this beloved member is something for which I am thankful. Having this family is something for which I am thankful. Having faith that this uncle is surrounded by mercy and love of a gracious God who will look upon his face and state, “Welcome home, my son”, is something for which I am thankful.

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When will the heart be aweary of beating?

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I bruise easily. Purply blueish-grey colored blots appear, sticking out against my fair skin like a a blotch of silky ink on smooth white paper. The colors fade into a distant yellow and soon enough completely disappear leaving no remnants.

For as long as memory provides, just as my skin, I am also tender; sensitive to the emotion of a moment or of others. As a girl, hours were spent outdoors…exploring, picking up feathers, rocks, leaves and pine cones. I can recall finding birds with damaged wings to care for or other creatures; once a wounded baby Armadillo. One such feathered friend was kept in a box next to my bed. I fed it dots of mash made from earth worms and breakfast cereal. Using a dropper, I dripped water into the tiny beak. Eventually it was strong enough to be free. I set the box down on its side and encouraged the little bird to leave the safety it provided. There in the grass it sat, never taking another step further away, at which I cried. I didn’t want to say goodbye either.

One Summer I repeatedly watched The Elephant Man with John Hurt. Each time my eyes swollen and red with tears. When he was struck, I winced. I cried as he was beaten and left in the streets, then my heart would fill with hope as he sat in fine clothes at the theatre. Why couldn’t they see how beautiful he was…how kind…how intelligent? Convinced he needed a friend, I told my mom that once old enough, I would marry John Merrick. As usual, my mom laughed and shook her head. She and I were vastly different. She saw me as whimsical and a day dreamer; traits that not only did not fit into her practical view of the world but she saw them as a complete waste of time. This difference of perspective would cause great frustration in her. She often told me to be more serious. I was serious. Completely. It mattered not that John dies at the end. It was with all the confidence I had in my little girl’s heart that if we were married, he would live. He would be happy.

When will the stream be aweary of flowing
Under my eye?
When will the wind be aweary of blowing
Over the sky?
When will the clouds be aweary of fleeting?
When will the heart be aweary of beating?
And nature die?
Never, oh! never, nothing will die;
The stream flows,
The wind blows,
The cloud fleets,
The heart beats,
Nothing will die.

Now, fully grown and independent for nearly 25 years- more than half my life…my heart is just as tender. I still feel nature calling in her gentle breeze or firecracker whips of lightening. A landscape moves me as much as the sound of birds calling out “Good morning!” at dawn. This connection is something for which I am grateful. I sometimes walk alone in the rain just to feel the drops, each one filled with cleansing purity. Music moves my heart equal to a Spring storm…the kind where the Sun shines as droplets make blotches on the earth. I do not possess any musical ability, which makes me marvel all the more at amazing compositions that stir my thoughts into sweet emotions. Nature is my friend; Music my comfort. Whenever I feel blue, usually rather than share those feelings with others, a quiet walk among the trees or sitting with my eyes closed breathing in each melody of a masterfully composed piece of music, provides some peace.

I learned to accept my mushy-gushy, sentimental heart. It serves me well. It calls me to serve others…giving of my time, resources and myself through acts of charity or a willing ear. My sensitivity is now somewhat more refined. It has been influenced in the way that we all are…sifted by experiences as we grow older. My mom and I are different too. We respect each other as women now, not just love one another as mother and child. She recently gave me a card. In it she expressed that she is proud of the woman I am. Upon handing it to me she told me that it may seem she gave my sisters more but it was only because they needed more. She said she never worries about me…her middle child. She knows that I am always okay. Upon hearing this, my heart felt a little fuller.

This time of year- Autumn and my most favorite month of November, I usually find myself a bit more pensive. This seems a rather common feeling. The cooler weather brings holidays, busier schedules in preparation for another year’s end. In thought, I’ve realized that I learned a few things about the disposition I was given. It is a gift to me. Sometimes it makes for a lonely journey. However I would rather live feeling the world around me so deeply with every beat of the heart…feel connected to every particle than to live feeling detached and dispassionate. I have learned that a tender heart must be tendered. It requires attention. It requires room to breathe and heal. It requires moments spent in silent introspection. Most importantly, it requires splotches of light…light that can only come from giving…from loving. In this light, bruises fade a little faster. When will the heart be aweary of beating? Never, oh! never.

Nothing will die;
All things will change
Thro’ eternity.
‘Tis the world’s winter;
Autumn and summer
Are gone long ago;
Earth is dry to the centre,
But spring, a new comer,
A spring rich and strange,
Shall make the winds blow
Round and round,
Thro’ and thro’,
Here and there,
Till the air
And the ground
Shall be fill’d with life anew.

(With excerpts from Nothing Will Die– Alfred Lord Tennyson)