Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Last Day

I do not know the last time I ran without pain.  I wish I could remember.  I wish I could think back to that day and remember what it was like.  Was it a sunny day or a rainy day.  I used to love to run in the rain, even on the cold days.  And on the cloudless days filled with sunlight I would be filled with energy and felt as if I could run forever.

But then came that day; the day that I do not remember; when running was no longer about making the distance in a decent time; but about overcoming the pain in one joint or another.

If only I could remember that day, that last day that I ran without pain; that last day that I could float uphill without a thought; that last day that I felt I could run forever. If I could remember it I would think of it often and replay it in my head over and over again.  But I cannot remember it.  I just know that there was such a day.

What would life be like if we had a sense of the ending of things?  If we had a keen awareness of the last day; the last day that things would be the same; the  last day that we had to spend with a person we loved; the last chance that we had to say I love you?

When I arrived at our home in Rocky Mount, N.C. prior to my father's death, I could already sense that something irrevocable had occurred.  Something had changed that could never be changed back. The house in which I had grown up was never to be the same.  Dad's last day came two weeks later, but was still a surprise, and I was still unprepared.  It was the finality of it all; knowing that I would never see him again; that he would never again walk down the hallways of my childhood home.

In the 19th century when people left the eastern United States to travel west to Oregon or California seeking their fortune, they left behind people they loved.  And there was the very good likelihood that they would never see them again.

What must it have been like for them to ride away knowing that?  What must it have been like for the people who were left behind, to know that their son or their daughter was leaving, never to be seen by them again?

What would it be like for us to treat each absence away from a loved one as the last time we would ever see them.  Would we ever again leave each other angry?  Would we ever again storm away?

Marcus Aurelius, a Roman Emperor, has been credited with saying, "Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense."

The lesson we learn in living is that life is fleeting and impermanent and many of its changes can be painful.  The challenge of life is to rise above this pain and to live fully in each moment.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Remembering the Past

This time of year the air sometimes takes on a certain smell that takes me back to high school and football; or camping trips and sleeping in pine forests; or cooking out over an open fire.

Sometimes a song will remind me of a certain time and a certain person.  For instance, the song "Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy" by the Tams was the first song that Melanie and I heard after our wedding and it always reminds me of our honeymoon and of long ago when we were young and foolish and happy.

I can hear theme songs of TV shows that I used to watch and be carried back to those simpler times.  The theme from "Leave It To Beaver" is playing in my head as I write this.

The theme song to "The Lone Ranger"(which is really the William Tell Overture by Rossini) always reminds me of my father.  As a child, when I heard the hearty "Hi Ho Silver!" I would climb into my father's lap and we would watch Clayton Moore and Jay Silverhills tame the wild west.

What I remember more than that TV show is feeling the warmth of my father as he held me; the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed; the veins bulging in his hands and the hair on his arms.  Most of all, I remember feeling loved.

But the past is not always pleasant to remember.  The very same thing that causes me to remember the love of my father may cause another person to remember a time of great pain.

Michael Meeropol remembers the "Lone Ranger" in this context:  One summer day, July 17, 1950 to be exact, while his father, Julius Rosenburg, was shaving in the bathroom in the back, Michael was listening to the Lone Ranger on the radio.  Suddenly the door burst open and his father was taken away by the FBI.  A month later his mother, Ethel was arrested.  

Both Ethel and Julius were accused and convicted of being spies for the Soviet Union.  They were  executed on June 19, 1953.  Michael and his brother, Robert, were placed in an orphanage after their family members shunned them. Several years later they were adopted by the Meeropol family.

Remembering the "Lone Ranger" has to be very painful for Michael Meeropol; a time of great fear and chaos.

I know a person whose military experience was not at all pleasant and he never likes to remember it.  He dislikes being recognized and made to stand in public, especially in church, where he goes to find peace and to feel the presence of God.   So, on the military holidays, he does not go to church.  He finds his peace at home.

The past is a funny thing.