Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunshine and Shadows

I'm feeling really reflective tonight, so apologies if this is heavy. I was planning, earlier, to blog about little things like the incident I had in the Target parking lot today, when a guy asked me if he could ask me a question and my better sense conquered the people-pleaser in me and I looked at him like he was crazy and said, flatly, no apologies, "NO." (Ladies, remember, you owe these people NOTHING, not even a minute of your time or a hesitation or a modicum of "nice"ness -- better to be borderline rude than dead!)

But there I go, that's not what's really on my mind. This whole day has felt kind of like a walk along a wooded path, where sunlight alternates with shadows so that the whole path is dappled, light and dark, warm and cold. On the one hand, our morning meeting was such a source of spiritual supply to me. And this afternoon, Tim went to play soccer with some labmates so the kids and I tagged along, giving us the perfect opportunity on a perfectly sunny and breezy day to kick a soccer ball around, climb up and down the bleachers, watch birds building their nests around the spotlights at the Intramural Fields, lie on our backs and discuss cloud shapes, and chase each other around. Idyllic. The kind of moments you try to flash back to when they're refusing to brush their teeth or no one can find their shoes and you're already ten minutes late, you know?

And yet ... there's the other hand. My mom passed along the news to me, as I drove into the aforementioned Target parking lot, that a good friend of hers, Becky Danek, a very dear mother of four who was just in our home for an evening last fall, who's known me since I was ten or so, who adores my mom and reminds me of her in every positive way, who never touched a cigarette in her life, was recently diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. Only an hour later, I learned that the father of one of my best friends from high school, Jerry Grossman, died last week of cancer. Sadly ironic, since he was president of a major Boston teaching hospital and a great mind in healthcare policy. This, of course, on top of the health issues in my own family and the certainty of my dad's terminal diagnosis. And I'd been thinking about it all anyway because I got one of those Member Emails from Borders announcing a new book called The Last Lecture and containing a link to this: (watch it, really, it's worth it, even if like me you see God's sovereignty at work rather than luck paradigm Dr. Pausch alludes to).

But Dr. Pausch makes an important point, which is that although we all tend to think, when we hear of premature deaths, that "it's not fair," the reality is that none of us are actually entitled to a full eighty years. Some of us get that time, others of us don't. When I look into the future and wonder whether that might be me someday, being sentenced to death by cancer or the like before I've had the chance to see my children grow up, graduate, get married, produce grandchildren, etc., I realize that I'm not afraid of dying and being with the Lord, but more of missing out on my family's lives and not being there for them -- of having them be "pushed off a cliff" into grief and loss, as Dr. Pausch puts it. That seems, well, unfair, and scary. Panic-inducing, even. But honestly, isn't it a miracle that we wake up each morning? That we draw each breath? That we even happened in the first place, and then weren't miscarried, or killed by all the horrible things that every parent knows can happen before a child reaches age two? Not to mention all the near misses we've all had, often without even knowing it, until this day? That we've been given amazing people in our lives, that we have parents or spouses or children or friends or mentors or blog readers or, I don't know, even grocery store cashiers who smile at us and send us away feeling a bit more connected? And then, that the God who did all this, and made the entire universe, loves us so tenderly? And gives us new mercies every morning? There's a peace in knowing that my days are measured out exactly right. Just like Becky's are, and Jerry Grossman's were, and Dr. Pausch's, and everyone who learns in a shorter time the life lessons some may take eighty or ninety years to get -- and maybe not even then.

So this very same afternoon, on the way home from Target with these two pieces of news weighing heavily on my heart, I saw a billboard that said something like "Life isn't about counting your years; it's about making your years count." And I remembered that while running at two-year-old pace across an open soccer field behind my giggling, scurrying toddler, so full of pride in her abilities ("Daddy, I kicked the ball, and I runned!") And I thought that the road ahead, so unknown, so marked by shadows, might turn out to be shorter than I expect ... and I could fight that fact, fear that fact, or just rest, while running with my daughter in our patch of sunlight.

7 comments:

MoreThanJustaMom said...

Hmm...I don't exactly know what to say. Sobering, yet encouraging - light and dark, indeed! Thanks for sharing. :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow, who needs TIME magazine when we can get it all a Quiet Spot? This week's TIME has Barack Obama's mom on the front cover, and an interview with Randy Pausch on page 4. Setting the curve again, Mrs. Diller.
-The Weird Brother

Amy (Spurgin) Tague said...

Hannah, I LOVE your blog. You echo sooo many things I've been thinking/feeling/experiencing since I became a mommy. I especially loved this one-- I can't stand the though of missing out on a single moment of my girls' lives and it's easy sometimes to get caught up in that fear. You (and that billboard) put it so well.. "It's not counting the years. It's making the years count." Anyhow, thank you soooo much for taking the time to blog. I enjoy reading your entries so much, even if it means I now have to keep a box of Kleenex at the computer desk. :)

Vanessa said...

Hannah, you really should write a book. I too LOVE reading your blog. I also sometimes get panicky feelings of leaving my family too soon, but I know the Lord's heart is good and that His timing is perfect, and this is what puts me at peace. Enjoy the now.

Samuel said...

One of the best blog posts I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. "Life's too short to waste a single day."

Tracee said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Hannah.

Andrew said...

Thank you, Hannah. That truly is a beautiful metaphor and such a profound message. It's in realizations like these that grace and the strength to press on can be found.