Thursday, August 20, 2009

Temporarily Final

For the past couple of days Scott and I have been hiding. You know. From life. All of it. Every now and then it's just the only appropriate response to reality. HIDE. And so he took the train down from Chicago, we hopped into Emma the Mustang, pointed ourselves west on I-44 and eventually drifted into Mtn. Home, Arkansas.

Mtn. Home is the town where my parents retired in 1982. My father passed away and was buried there in June of 2000. Mom passed away here in Illinois and we took her back there for her burial in September of 2004. I had not been to their graves since that day.

It was surreal.

I was really grateful that Scott was with me. It would have been equally gratifying to have had Kelli, Christopher, or Debbie there but they all had jobs and commitments that wouldn't allow them to get away. And, like I said, Scott and I needed to hide for a couple of days.

It's an odd thing to stand over your parents graves for the first time. To look upon their grave stones. To read the names etched into bronze that use to be printed neatly on a Christmas present or perhaps a check helping you find your way through college. The only way I have been able to describe it to myself is that it is "temporarily final." I know that makes no sense. They are dead to the ways and means of this world. They are dead to my eyes, ears, and conversation. And yet they live on with their creator and, as King David said in referring to his son who had passed away, "He (they) will not come to me but I will go to him (them.)" Dad loved McDonalds coffee. Mom loved Sprite. Before I went to their grave site I stopped and purchased a cup of each. I held them up in silent toast. And I poured the contents into the earth that covers their mortal remains. It was cheaper than plastic flowers and far more meaningful.

It occurs to me that I'm on the next rung of the ladder. When you are born the ladder is high. Your grandparents, or if you are lucky, your great grandparents are on that top rung. They will be the next to step off of the ladder and into the presence of God. Then your parents. Aunts and Uncles. Relatives that you have never met. You watch them all "go over the top." And one day you realize that they are pretty much all gone. You may be relatively young but any family members older than you are, are cousins. They are on a lateral rung on the ladder next to you.

You are next. (If the proper scheduling holds up. And I certainly pray that it does.)

And so you drive away and you shrug it off. "Home" sounds better and better every day. Not the one you hang your hat in. The one you deeply believe awaits you after your final gasp of earthly air. It doesn't sound scary, menacing, or foreboding. It sounds precious, welcoming, restful. You look in the mirror and you don't mind the gray hair. Your knees scowl at you when you climb stairs or squat to help a little one. Your insurance premium goes through the roof. People that you use to teach, people that looked up to you, seem a bit impatient these days. They are looking up the ladder. But they are so close to the bottom of it that they have no idea how heady the view is from higher up. And they don't at all understand that you just don't care as much about some of the things that use to seem so captivating. They think you are just ... silly. Or forgetful. Or slipping. In truth your perception of reality has shifted. You have lost enough battles to not take life so seriously any more. You have given up on the idea of single handedly changing the world. You realize that the morning will probably dawn and it will look much like yesterdays morning. They seldom change in any drastic way. You become impatient with their impatience. You become frustrated by their frustration. But you don't argue with them because you clearly remember being on their rung of the ladder and you know arguing or explaining won't make any difference. It didn't when others argued with you. And it wont' if you argue now.

Somewhere out there "temporary finality" awaits you. You are young enough that it is probably decades away. Or the front of a bus could have your name on it tomorrow morning. You can't know. So you don't worry.

You enjoy the view.


Anonymous said...

You are a good son, they loved you and you loved them. I saw that.

You are a good father, you love your children and children love you. I have seen that.

I am proud to have you as my brother-in-law.

You and Scott are lucky to have the time together.


Doug Clark said...

Something that has been impressed on me the last couple of years is that, for Christ-followers, death is TEMPORARY. Even if our bodies are in the grave 1000 or 10,000 years, we will live again in bodies that are incorruptible.

Kelly said...

I love that you brought them McDonald's coffee and Sprite. That touched my heart.
Great post.