queuing up for the adventure

Image result for human beings lined up with communion

No, this post is not about yet another wilderness adventure, at least not in the more literal sense that you might imagine it to be, given my proclivities. That is unless you consider, as I do, that this experience we call life is one wild (and precious) adventure.

On Saturday, I attended the funeral of a friend, a dear soul whose life’s journey overflowed with the depth and breadth of all that being human brings — beatific bliss and wretched despair, profound joy and deep regret. Of course, in truth I really knew so very little of her, merely the small bits of her life that brushed up against my mine, my understanding of which was most likely colored by my own experiences of life and subsequent interpretations of hers.

This reality struck me poignantly during the funeral, how little we are known by, how little we know of, one another. Each person in attendance, more or less touched by this woman’s life in some way, glimpsed but a fragment of the mystery that lay beneath the surface of this precious human life. All of the storytelling, put together, was but a morsel of the feast, a hint of the fragrance, and drop of the essence of who she was, and Who she was. I was affected particularly by the observation that it is so often the children of the deceased who are the primary storytellers in these moments, knowing how distorted a perception of our parents we all carry.

Later, at the church service (which I’d questioned myself about attending, especially as the service of poetry reading and sharing at the funeral home had felt so complete), I was moved, as I frequently am, witnessing the procession of humanity, pressing forward in that continuous stream, making their way toward the altar for a taste of this exquisite life, a taste of its sorrow, its nurture, its sacrifice, its love, it’s blessing. It always feels to me like so many souls lined up, a throng of beings at the gates of life, waiting for the chance to taste humanity, fully knowing the extremities of its expressions and experiences, saying ‘yes’ I want to be a part of that.

It is such an extravagant mystery.

Today, the snow falls heavily outside my window, visibly piling up on the winter-bare earth, its invitation also beckoning. I too am drawn to step out into that bitter beauty. Though I am cozy and warm next to the fire with a quiet view of the wonder, I want to be IN it, to feel its sting, to taste its beauty, to breathe its cold joy.

We were to be in Canada this week, camping and snowshoeing there in the 2 feet of snow that fell last week on the several feet of snow that already blanketed the earth there. But here I sit instead, my wild heart choosing, freely and naturally, to say ‘yes’ again, to be where Love calls me to be, present to the pain … and the beauty ….. of life.

My son called, on the morning of my friend’s funeral, the day before we were to depart, broken open by the pain that his father-in-law had died unexpectedly and suddenly the previous night. His heart was torn apart at his own loss, but even more so, at the loss for his wife, and the loss for his two young daughters of their beloved grandfather. How would he tell them this news, which would crush their hearts, breach the cocoon of their childhood innocence, where all is love and safety, to introduce them to the deep grief of this life.

I have felt blessed by the these days companioning my son, holding his heart as he walked through terrain, new to him, along this journey of being human. He didn’t really need me after all, his heart is so big. I just reassured him that he knew the way through— how to tread lightly, how to hold tenderly, how to listen compassionately, how to trust love, how to be human. I simply reminded him Who he is.

These things he knows. He is a phenomenally loving man. And just as I am so often astounded by the crush of humanity lining up to say ‘yes’ to life, I also frequently find myself in awe of the profound wisdom and tenderness of my adult sons, the ways they embody Love. I don’t know why it astounds me when I catch a glimpse of them like this, when the beauty of their souls shines through, but I always feel the blessing of that glimpse wash over me like a baptism .

Of course this experience – this very real human experience- of profound loss and deep grief- in the paradoxical way that life always presents itself- is also allowing this part of him to come forward, to grow, to become more fully incarnate, if you will. It is allowing him to taste the terrible beauty of life that he perhaps signed up for. Last night, he mentioned that he is in awe of the tender beauty and strength of his little ones.

Perhaps that’s why we line up for it, after all, for a chance to know this wonder, to be filled with this awe, to touch this tenderness, to taste this feeling, to know this Love.

Addendum

This evening I received a phone call from a friend with the news that our mutual friend’s son took his life yesterday. And this is also true about life, that for some the terror looms too large, and the redemption of pain never comes. I wonder if at the end some part of them simply says ” I didn’t sign up for this”, or I’m so tired of waiting for something nourishing to eat.

I know that anything I say here will fall far short of understanding, for I cannot grasp the mystery of this young man’s life, the depths of his pain, anymore than I could catch a glimpse of the soul of my friend, whose funeral I attended last week. It is all so ephemeral and fleeting.

I only hope he is tasting Love now.


Go to the Limits of Your Longing
  Rainer Maria Rilke
                                                                                                                                   
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
Book of Hours, I 59

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