Roger, the husband of my friend Diana, needed heart surgery that carried serious risks. He and Diana prepared for the worst, making sure their financial and legal documents were up-to-date. Perhaps just as important, they were open and honest about their fears of Roger’s chances of surviving. They celebrated their decades of love and the life they had built together with their four children.
The surgery was scheduled for two weeks in advance. Roger and Diana asked their children to visit earlier, rather than gathering on the day of the surgery. During those preceding days, the family pored over photo albums and home movies, laughing and remembering happy times and sharing feelings about what they mean to each other. Tom, the youngest son, who had been estranged from the family for years, didn’t show up.
Roger spent time alone with each of the children who came, wanting to be sure they had the chance to say to him what was personal for them. He wanted to give each their own blessing and tell them individually that he loved them.
At the time of this writing, Roger is recovering, but he will need additional surgery. He would still like to talk with Tom, but this may not happen. Tom may find himself in a ‘race-to-the-bedside” situation. On the other hand, he may not care.
Consider what Roger has given to his family, because he was willing to open his heart to the people he loved. He gave them a gift of a conversation from the heart.
As I write this, two astronauts of the six man crew on the International Space Station are outside the safety of their spacecraft, replacing a malfunctioning pump that’s part of the station’s cooling system. This is the real thing, in real time, not a Hollywood movie. The space station is traveling 17,227 miles per hour, completing over 15 orbits around the earth daily.
While they work to repair their craft at 250 miles above the earth, down below, millions of shoppers are orbiting parking lots at malls, racing against the clock to have gifts ready by Christmas. The pressure and frenzy that surrounds the holiday is a marketing marvel, perpetuated generation after generation, by retailers whose annual profits depend on those minions believing that gift wrapped stuff, delivered on time, is an act of love.
No matter what their spiritual beliefs were before they launched into space, the astronauts experience a transformation upon seeing Earth from that vantage point. They use words like awe, wonder, vastness, spirit, humility, infinity to describe their recognition that we are a tiny, fragile blue dot in a vast sea of black.
I can’t imagine anyone who relates to their experience feeling pressure to beat the Christmas deadline.
What the astronauts saw: http://vimeo.com/55073825. Share their awe and share it with your children. What an awesome gift that would be.
The poetry of life often lives in the daily rituals, the ordinary activities we often do mindlessly without appreciating how lucky we are to be doing them. Not me, not ever again.
One of my favorite ordinary things is making coffee in the morning. Grinding and inhaling the aroma of the beans, filling the coffee maker with water, emptying the ground beans into the filter, and pushing the brew button. How much more ordinary can you get?
Ever since my husband died suddenly in an accident years ago, I’ve been aware that ordinary events can turn extraordinary in a second. The Boston bombings, 9/11, a plane or car crash, a fatal heart attack, a drive by shooting or the diagnosis of a terminal illness. These sudden events, woven into the tapestry of daily life, are reminders that the ordinary is a gift.
One of my favorite poets celebrates the ordinary. Jane Kenyon, who died of leukemia at the age of forty-seven, understood the importance of celebrating the dailiness of life.
I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.
At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.