Sunday, December 25, 2016

One of Life's Little Ironies... A Christmas Observation

It's Christmas morning, and I'm sitting in front of the computer.  On my days off, this is one of my morning rituals... Get up, put on my bath robe, stroll to the computer and read for a while.  It's a soothing way to wake up at my own speed.  This morning I was up at 5:30 AM.

As I sat down to the glow of the computer monitor, and took that first sip of my morning coffee, I saw the Christmas tree lights blinking in my peripheral vision, and had a flashback to a time long passed, and experienced one of life's little ironies...  I thought back to my days as a young parent, when my children would come into my bedroom well before the sun came up, full of excitement and anticipation...  "It's Christmas!  Can we open our presents?"  Though I look back with fondness now, I very well recall how annoyed I was at the time.  Dammit kids, I just got to sleep, I'd think.  Don't you know that?

I remember one specific year, when my older daughter came into my bedroom in the middle of the night, full of wonder... "Dad... it's Christmas!  Let's open presents!"

"Kid, it's still night time.  We can't open presents until your sister wakes up."  In the fog of my half-sleep, I thought I was being pretty clever, and expected that my command would purchase another couple of hours of well-deserved rest.

Moments later, I heard the same daughter in the next room, whispering "Sissy, wake up.  It's Christmas."  That didn't work out exactly as planned.

Over the subsequent years, I developed a ritual that was tantamount to torture for the children.  I told them that daddy got to sleep in until 7:00 AM on Christmas.  This, of course, never exactly worked out, because invariably the little ones would start creeping in around 5:00 asking "Dad, is it 7:00 yet?" or "Dad, can we pleeeeeaaaaassse open presents now??"  But I did stick to my guns and make them wait.  Basically, we all suffered... they suffered with anticipation, and I suffered from lack of sleep.  But make no mistake, I'm grinning as I relive those days, and write the memories down.

Then I briefly thought back further... to my own youth, remembering how I would wake up before dawn, full of excitement, and how I did the same thing to my own parents.

Now the kids are grown and making their own memories.  My older daughter has a child of her own, and there's no doubt in my mind that he was up very shortly after midnight, saying "Mom!  It's Christmas!  Can we open presents?"

Meanwhile, I've now been getting up early for years.  I've been doing it daily for so long that even on weekends, I'm usually up before the sun.  THIS is that life irony I mentioned earlier... when I was a young dad, I wanted to sleep in, but the excitement of the children prevented that from happening.  Now that the kids are grown, I have the opportunity to sleep in, but I can't.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Farewell, Uncle Jack

Just shy of two weeks ago my uncle was airlifted to an area hospital.  He had a stroke and a "cardiac event."  Doctors determined that he had an infection on a heart valve.  Part of the infection broke loose, causing the stroke.  He fought the good fight, but he passed away early this morning.

My family is not a tight-knit family, though I wish it was.  Regardless, I have fond memories of my uncle Jack, my aunt Judy, and my cousins, Jennifer, Bill and Richard.  I'm saddened that they will now associate Christmas with the passing of a family member.  But I will say that God answered a prayer.  I asked that my uncle not die on Christmas day, and that's how it played out.

My most vivid memories of Jack revolve around my days as a young boy, when we would visit the farm he had at the time.  I remember him as a happy, boisterous, strong man.

I am happy -- though "happy" isn't exactly the right word -- that Jack had a relatively peaceful, pain-free passing.  He died peacefully in his sleep, and he spent the overwhelming majority of the last weeks unconscious.

Please don't feel bad for me.  I'm okay with this.  It's how life plays out.  I will, however, ask that you pray for my aunt and my cousins.

Farewell, Uncle Jack.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

What Did I Say?

Just under fourteen months ago, I delivered a heart-felt eulogy for my friend Greg, who took his own life.  The eulogy was done in three parts.  It started with me reading a letter that his parents wrote, mourning the loss of their son and begging those in the audience to seek help if they were depressed.  From there I talked about Greg, and how he impacted my life.  We then played a couple of songs appropriate for the occasion, and I closed with some fun memories about him... stories that would have most certainly embarrassed him if he'd been physically present.

Though I wrote the main part of the eulogy, I very much spoke from the heart, essentially using my written words as a frame of reference and speaking extemporaneously.  I printed off the prepared eulogy after I finished writing it, and from there I expounded and added new thoughts with quick notes in the margins.  It was this combination of prepared speech and handwritten notes that I used to memorialize Greg.

The thing is, I don't really know what I said.  After everything was said and done, I went back to the podium to retrieve my notes only to discover that they were gone.  To this day, I don't know where the notes went.  (If the person who has those notes reads this post, I'd love a copy... you can keep the original.)  I did, however, find the next best thing yesterday.  On my computer, I stumbled across the file that contained my prepared words.  Reading those words for the first time in over a year brought back a flood of memories, including a flashback to me standing at the podium summarizing 35 years of friendship.  It was good to finally recall what I'd said in remembrance of my chosen brother.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Adversity and Thankfulness

Though I do not always express it, I am quite content in my life, and extremely thankful for what I have.  It's my default state to be happy and grateful.  I have a good home, a fulfilling career working for a great employer, and most importantly, a wonderfully supportive family, circle of friends and church community.  God has provided for me.  I'm expressing this today, because the last couple of days have reminded me how truly blessed I am.

The last week at work was unusually difficult.  I'm not going to go into specifics, but I will say that the week was trying physically and emotionally.  Quite frankly, I was overwhelmed Thursday.  But my boss and co-workers were incredibly supportive and understanding, my family was my rock, and my church family was compassionate and encouraging.  The support and prayers of these people helped in a way that words cannot adequately express.

Fast forward to this morning...  The momentary tribulation at work has for the most part passed. I was on the way to the corner store to get my morning coffee, and I was reminded of my friend Greg's funeral... specifically, I recalled giving the eulogy at his memorial service, which was held at my church.  I was again reminded of the love and support I received from my immediate family, my employer, and my church family, and I was overcome with gratitude for what God has given me.  The twist is that it took that moment of pain to remind me how much I have.

The words I write today are designed to publicly express my heartfelt appreciation for what I have in my life.  I know that I possess what many in the world seek with all of their being:  I have a wonderful family that I adore.  I have a great group of friends.  I have a supportive church community.  If you read these words and feel a twinge, it means one of two things... 1) You are part of one or more of the aforementioned groups, and I am grateful for you, or 2) You too have what I have, and you should feel as grateful as I feel.