I’ve known a seven year old with only one foot. A mother, blind and unable to see the beauty in her newborn’s face. A man with no limbs who continues to teach the world that it is the soul that is most important. Homeless, no food, no clean clothes, no shoes, perhaps no love. I have seen it. But I don’t live it. I have all my limbs, I have a home, food, the ability to walk to my basement whenever I want to wash my clothes. I have love in my life.
Virginia Woolf once said, “Arrange whatever pieces come your way.” And often, I can do that. Some days, however, my headache takes over, my neck hurts, my knees ache and I just don’t feel like it. Some days, I find every excuse I can to NOT walk downs stairs and wash my clothes or clean the bathrooms or put laundry away. I just don’t feel like it is always good enough.
Then I think about the man I passed last week on the street in town with all of his belongings in a shopping cart, looking for a warm place to lay for the night. And I think of how blessed I really am. And I thought about who I am, and who he is. And then I realized that perhaps those belongings don’t make me who I am, and the lack thereof doesn’t make him less than. We find ways to forget. Somedays, I think we really do. We take for granted what we have and who we have to give us reassurance, love, keep us safe and warm. We don’t remember to say thank you for the little things. We assume they will be there. I am really learning how not to do that as my family navigates through the last portion of my mom’s life. How much the little moments mean. How a hand to touch her and eyes to see her are so very important to me now. My awareness is so much richer, so much deeper. I am thankful to have those when I normally would take them for granted.
I was eleven when my first nephew Tyler was born. I was the “cool” aunt, always just a little older, but not so old that I was far from understanding. Tyler was the one who named my mom “gummy”, we think trying to say Grammy, but just never really getting it right. So Gummy would stick, and even to this day I have to smile as I hear all three of those boys, tall and handsome men in their 20’s call my mom “Gummy.”
My second nephew, Ryan, who is now 6’5″, 24 years old and coaches basketball at his former HS, is one of the nicest guys I know (In fact, they all are… and I’m not just saying it…They truly are amazing young men.)
Ryan couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 at the time, when he was playing in the living room in the house I grew up in. My mom had been known to collect antique tea sets. In fact, there was one that we all put money together to buy her for Christmas one year that was hand-painted and signed by the artist. At the time I didn’t really get it, I mean, it was pretty and everything, but seemed to me a little crazy to spend that kind of money on a tea set. What did I know? I was a punk just going to college who didn’t really care about tea pots and sugar bowls I guess.
All of a sudden there was a loud crash. We all went running into the living room, and there, with huge eyes, was Ryan staring at the pieces of a sugar bowl on the table. Big huge tears started to well up in his eyes. I just knew this wouldn’t be good. My sister immediately grabbed him and with that “motherly you are in really big trouble mister” look, she asked what he did. Right away, without blaming someone else, or saying the dog did it… he just looked up at her, scared to death, and cried. All he could get out was that he was sorry. No excuses. Just that he was sorry. And it seemed sincere. My sister immediately scolded him, saying loudly, “YOU BROKE ONE OF GUMMY’s POSSESSIONS!” Ryan replied through his sobbing tears, gasping for air: “I don’t even know what a possession is…” And in that moment, it seemed like all was forgiven. The horrific thought of breaking a piece of china that belonged to my mom was all of a sudden a little silly. A possession? Really? We are all that upset over a piece of clay? A little super glue and it would be back to normal. My sister felt horrible. My nephew balled his eyes out for being human, and my mom got over it. We laugh now at the possession comment, but I really think it was a deeper moment for all of us.
We all make mistakes. We all mess up big stuff, and have a hard time finding enough super glue to put it all back together. Some things end up cracked and flawed, but we still love them anyway. Even after trying to arrange all the pieces that have come our way. Sometimes, I think we arrange perhaps too much, instead of just letting things be. Sometimes, it’s ok for there to be pieces as we navigate through. Life is messy, and often too much for super glue to handle. The excuses are what keep those pieces from even being whole again.
And then, we remember the guy who was burned almost to death and lost the use of his limbs almost totally, no longer even having hands. Yet, he still plays the drums.
We remember the surfer with one arm after a shark attack, who went on to win high level competitions.
We remember. And then we make a choice. We forget the possessions, and focus on the heart and soul that truly measures us, or we make excuses about why we can’t.
I think I am going to stop the excuses. I have laundry to do tomorrow. And I will thank God for giving me the legs and arms to carry it down the stairs.
I am living this day without excuses.
Only using the super glue for the big stuff.
And arranging whatever pieces come my way.
One at a time.