One of the saddest moments I have ever witnessed in my life happened at my mother’s funeral. As with most funerals, it embodied sorrow. A woman, who always seemed to draw the short straw in life, died at the young age of forty-nine, after a five-year onslaught of breast cancer. Her last half-decade encompassed a mixture of operations, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment that often left her tired body listless from the battle. No matter how tragic her life or dark her hours, she knew unconditional love from her mother and father—my granny and granddad. She did so much for them; and, they supported her through her various trials, never asking many questions, always there to help where they could. They lived in the forgotten town of Nashoba, Oklahoma on a farm burrowed deep in the hills of the Kiamichi Mountains. Only those who love this part of Oklahoma knew where to find the “old place” as it was known. Their land encompassed hundreds of acres that followed the path of the Little River. It was a green and beautiful place with fertile soil and open grazing land for their cattle. They didn’t have running water in their house but a well house, outhouse, smokehouse and barn dotted the landscape. They lived about four hours from where we lived, and when we hit the town of Clayton (about 45 minutes from their house) on our drive to see them, it seemed the clock began turning backwards and didn’t quit its trajectory back in time until we arrived at their home, and I was sure we were back to the time of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
They were unassuming folk who worked hard and lived simply. My granddad was a mountain of a man. His tall, lean frame had a solidness to it that seemed unbreakable. People always commented on the enormity of his hands. He could wrap his hands around my waist with room to spare well into my teenage years. His “bigness” represented a fixedness in my mind—until that day at my mother’s funeral. While I recall bits and pieces from the day, one scene will forever be etched in my memory. All the people had filed out of the church and passed by my mother’s casket and only the family remained to pay their last respects. Bringing up the rear of the line, my Granddad walked stoically, tears streaming down his giant, weathered face. I turned around and caught a glimpse of him towering over the casket. And in that instant I saw an unbreakable man shattered by heartbreak. What struck me most in the moment was how small his hands seemed. He reached into the casket and tenderly stroked my mother’s face and cried out “sister, sister (what he always called my mom), why did you have to die—why couldn’t it have been me.” He then took her hand into his own and his hand just seemed so minute, to have shrunk in that very instant, as if death itself reached out from my mother’s coffer and stole his strength, his bigness right from his body. He never really recovered from her death, clinging to his sorrow as if it denoted his only memory of my mother. He always seemed so small to me after the funeral, his robustness washed away with his tear soaked grief.
While this seems like a very sad blog to kick off the New Year, I write about this to encourage people to really embrace the moment. I don’t mean to sound cliché or write yet another blog about seizing the day. However, I do hope to inspire an urgency to make the most of every second of 2015. If you’re over the age of about twenty, you know life is short. I don’t need to remind you of that. As the New Year is upon us, I encourage you to let go of old grief and hurts and pains. Don’t let those offenses reach out from the past and pilfer your strength. We all have giant hands, metaphorically speaking, that have much to do in 2015. Holding on to the past will keep you from fully engaging in the work to be done in the here and now. We all have bigness in us. Use that bigness to the fullest by freeing yourself from all the years that came before 2015. Just decide to let all the previous troubles go and then make it so. Because honestly, you really only have the “eternal now.” Don’t waste it on regrets of the past or anxiousness about the future. Use your 2015 wisely!
Engage in the present. Have an epic year. Keep Shining. Peace Out!