Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Love and Its Sacrifice

I've been continuing to think a lot about the concept of love lately. In some ways I feel that I am trying to see everything through the lens of love. For instance, it changes something in to to simply start to ask yourself, "What would Love do in this situation?" instead of the traditional, "What would Jesus do?"

One thing I notice is that I use the word far less frequently. It means far more to me today than it did a few years ago. When I speak it, I realize I am making a commitment to that person.

I was listening to Darin Hufford talk the other day and he was describing his work among some homeless people years ago. He learned that when he told them that he was doing the work because "Jesus loved them" it was far different than when he begin to tell one of them that he, Darin, loved them. When he finally said, "I love you" it demanded that he DO something. He ended up bringing a homeless man to his home to live with him, all because when he said, "I love you," he could no longer let this man live on the street.

I realized that what Darin was saying was so very true. I cannot say I love you and then pretend that your needs do not matter to me. Love cannot be ignored. Love, in its very nature, demands sacrifice.

I always thought that if I do something for someone I was loving them. I'm beginning to sense that I have it all backwards. If I love someone, the doing will come naturally. I was always about doing. It was exhausting. But if you love, the doing flows naturally. Yes, you get tired and sometimes it does take an act of your will but when you love, something wells up inside of you so that you simply cannot pass by.

I wonder if when Jesus said, "If you love me you will keep my commandments," that what he was really saying was that if we loved him we would find ourselves naturally keeping his commandments. I've always felt guilty and tried to DO the commandments to show I loved Him. When I finally let myself be loved by Him I find myself returning the love and then I suddenly find it in me that I am doing what he wanted me to do all along.

I have seen no greater love than this, that a man will lay down his life for his friend. Not because he goes around laying down his own life so that he can see that he loves but that he loves and therefore finds himself naturally laying down his life.

Or maybe I'm parsing the words and their meanings too much.

One thing I notice is that I use the word far less frequently. It means far more to me today than it did a few years ago. When I speak it, I realize I am making a commitment to that person. I like that.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Parts of Me - My Father's Passing

We are presently in the days that are preceding my Father's death - or as Marshall explained it to the boys, - his graduation. He will probably pass away sometime in the next few days and so we are with him almost around the clock. There have been a few nights when we have come home from the hospital to get a full night's sleep but other than that you can find us at his bedside most of the day. I sit with Mom and try to guess his immediate needs and then visit with whomever comes into our little space. The visits from my family and our friends are always a pleasure as they pop in to give a quick hug, a smile of assurance, an offer of anything we would need to be met and even a laugh or two.

We are not sad in this room. In fact we are probably the rowdy-est group they may have had in the hospice room. To us, this passing will be a delight. We are so glad that we get to attend to this event. All of us want to be there when it actually happens - both to say a tearful good by but also to see the amazing beginning of a journey from this world to the next.

Thoughts are flying around in my head as I sit there these past few days but the one I wanted to write about today is about what I see in myself that has prepared me for this moment. It may sound a little selfish to write about myself at a time like this but that is how it is. I am me in this moment and seeing it from my perspective is the only one I have.

The thing I notice about myself is that I have several persona that are viewing and participating in this passing. There is the daughter in me, the mother in me and the member of the human race in me.

First the daughter in me. There is a little book for children that you can pick up in any bookstore called, Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch where it chronicles the life of a mother caring for her infant son through his adulthood and then his care of her as she grows sick and dies. I find myself as my father's daughter doing this very thing. I sit beside his bed and remember the times where I ran to him across the tarmac as he de-boarded his plane and he scooped me up in his arms. I remember playing with him in the waters of Hawaii as we visited him for a week during his "vacation" from Vietnam. I remember him teaching me how to drive my VW Bug in the back 40 of the property in Puerto Rico. I remember wanting to NEVER see his lips pursed together till they became white because he was disappointed in me. And I remember a day where we were talking about God and he looked at me and said, "Where did you get such a mean God? He loves you, Sis. He is just not like how you have described."

So as I sit by his bedside and give him a sip of water to wet his mouth or a cool rag to wipe his forehead, I remember and am his little girl, his daughter. I find myself saying things he said to me as a child. When he wanted to take off his socks yesterday, I said, "Daddy, you are wearing your piggy toes," just as he always said to me. I love the daughter in me.

Then there is the Mother in me. Having all the kids that I did, prepared me to care for my dad. There is not much difference in cleaning the butt of a toddler and tenderly attending to the bathroom habits of your dad when he can no longer do it himself. We have laughed in that I can understand his slurred, toothless speech, better than anyone else. Who knew that toddler speak is also a very close form of old man with no teeth speak! I'm an expert translator of both I guess. I have also learned to read and respond to the small gestures of someone who just can not think of the words that are needed to get their needs across to you. I'm in tune what what he wants and needs most of the time. I remember holding my babies and trying to decide just what it was that they wanted. All that practice is coming into good stead right now.

I'm so grateful for the mother in me. It allows a closeness to my Daddy that becomes a true delight as I care for him. It does not feel burdensome. I was prepared for this time.

And there is the realization that I am part of something much bigger than myself. I am seeing the broadness and circular nature of human existence. I often step back and realize just how our existence, our being and our lives are so absolutely amazing.

Carla mentioned the other day that death must be very much like birth. That thought has had me pondering this event like nothing else. I have never witnessed a death but I have been through several births of mine and other friends. I am amazed at the sameness that this has to those. The room where we sit with Dad feels like a birthing room of sorts. His labored breathing, the signs of deterioration, the progression towards death is not unlike the feelings you get as you watch the last signs of someone going into labor. The similarities are uncanny to me. They feel so familiar. I almost feel bad because I anticipate the moment as I would a birth. I'm sure it would be different if I were watching a life passing before it's natural time. But this death of my Dad is not a sad thing to me. It is as natural as birth. It will be a wonderful thing for him. He longs for it and has prayed for it. It will be an answer to his and our prayers. So maybe that is why it takes on the excitement and joy that a pending birth has.

So I love the fact that I can view it as part of the human experience - that I can see the full circle of our human path. It is a wonder to me. I think if I could add a phrase to the Bible I would add it to a portion of scripture where David is himself in wonder of the world around him.

He says: "There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maiden."

To Davids list I would add, "And the way of a life from the newness of birth to the passing of an old man."