Long before Bean, long before Chip, even long before The Minions - I used to run. I know, I know - if wee little running Whimsy could just SEE my Nerpa-shaped body now, right?
One of my favorite running destinations was Sunset Hill Park. I lived close by, and I could do the 5-mile loop pretty easily (she remembers wistfully, as she is currently out-matched by a single span of stairs on the state ferry system). My favorite part of the run was the destination, of course. A tiny sliver of grass and a handful of trees perched on a bluff overlooking Elliott Bay and the distant Olympic mountain range. It was always such a welcome pause to stand at the edge of that cliff and look out over the water toward the mountains.
On a clear day, Elliot Bay is nothing but a sparkling blanket of deep blue-gray, stretching out out out farther than you can imagine – to the right, to the left, out out out to meet the Olympics. Occasionally I’d spend time studying the water moving 300 feet below – see the varied currents colliding against one another. I liked to focus my eyes to one wee spot, watch the lines of water cris-cross one another until it seemed impossible for a boat to navigate that watery chaos.
One day I stopped looking at any specific point on the water and let my eyes drift back and back and back until I was seeing the whole water – the whole view in unfocused simplicity. It was only then that I realized there was a grand pattern, a grand scheme to the water that created one whole current. There was no chaos. There was no struggle. There was only a beautiful curving swath of water following itself out to sea.
Tuesday morning found me thinking these thoughts. I was reflecting about Life in General and how it can seem so crazy, so convoluted, so compromised. I wanted to step back for some clarity, to see the grand scheme (even for a moment). Instead of a minute of quiet, I got a phone call.
My father-in-law had suffered a heart attack.
The past few days have been strange. They ahve been stressful. They have been exhausting. They have also been savagely beautiful.
This blog is my own, and I try very hard to respect privacy of those around me, unless they’ve given some kind of permission to be stripped right here on the old internet (Chip: this is you – don’t you LOVE ME?). Sometimes when something is happening in a family unit, it’s hard to identify where one person’s experience ends and another’s begins. So it is with illness and hard times. I am sharing my thoughts about this, not because I want to bare anything private about my family, but because this thing is also happening to me, and there are precious few things in my life that I don’t write about. I feel a compelling need to tell you what I’m learning to make it real.
I can only imagine someone else's pain, but I know my own - and I know it well enough to say what I've said before: pain transforms us in ways we can only imagine. Pain and sorrow carve deeply into our souls, making ravines and vast valleys that we can later fill with joy and laughter – and even sometimes tears.
I will not say "do not weep" for not all tears are evil.
The beauty of these last few days is the kind of transforming pain that gives someone a new face. That teaches us that holding on and letting go each require a different sort of strength. It must be hard to be the one who is leaving, but I think it’s even harder for the ones left behind.
Perspective is a gift we only touch for a second. We cannot hold it in our hands like a butterfly or a fragile bird. We are given that second to look out over the patterns of our lives and know that there is always movement – and if we trust, we’ll know that the seemingly meaningless eddies of chaos and turmoil serve a greater purpose. We can allow our days to stretch out out out into the greater ocean of heaven, of the universe, and know that everything is going to be okay.