A young couple is having their first baby- a boy. The excitement is nudged aside by concern as he is delivered way too early. Often the only way to save an extremely premature baby is to load him up with oxygen. So the doctors do- and they save him, but it has cost him his sight. He is legally blind; and most likely will always be. At seven years of age now, he can get around fairly well, and to the casual observer, he seems like any other boy playing in the neighborhood- only he has really thick glasses. They live three houses down from me. Today as he raced to catch the bus in front of my house, I could hear the interchange between his mother and him. It was loud and unpleasant; the finale of a difficult morning. I wondered how often they live that out. There are other challenges that come with how he entered the world. But…they are just happy to have him.
“I have been to two stores and I can’t find a Mother’s Day card for a granddaughter”. The sweet little lady next to me at the card rack was talking to me. It took me a second to realize that she was looking for a card for her granddaughter- no doubt a young mother. I offered that no, I didn’t see any either. Without any prompting she quickly shared that her granddaughter was 31 and had cancer. I asked if it was breast cancer. Not sure why. “Yes, she is going to have a double mastectomy soon, that’s what the doctor said”. She was looking up at me now. I assured her that they do amazing things with breast cancer these days- I just know she’ll be fine. I then shared that my wife had it several years ago- and treated it that very same way and she is just fine. She’ll be fine…”Oh thank you”, she said as the tears started. You have made me feel so good. I hugged her and cried with her a bit.
And she was gone. As I went on about my shopping I pondered that moment. And I ponder still- about life. How fragile it is. How short it is. How precious it is.
“ponder”. It’s an old fashioned word maybe. It’s a word my friend Steve and I shared a lot back in the day. At his river property we had a “ponderin hole” where we would sit in the cold water and talk- maybe sharing a beer or a cigar. If you don’t know what a ponderin hole is, that’s ok. Not important.
Yesterday was the eight year anniversary of Steve’s passing. A tree fell on him near that ponderin hole and his life was snuffed out in an instant. No final goodbyes; no last words. Life- this brief, fragile life…was done.
He would say- and I would agree, that he lived a good life. Did the best he could. He would have liked it to continue a bit longer. He never got to meet the grandchildren that have come along in the eight years since. He didn’t get to walk his daughters down the aisle. But we who knew him know that he lived life well. I miss you, buddy.
I think of that often these days. How am I living my life? How have I lived it? As I work through these autumn years, how will I finish it?
I have many regrets. But as I look in the mirror these days, I see a man who is still trying to live life well. And- when you break it down, that’s all we can really do. We play the cards we are dealt- and that is often unkind or unfair. But it is also often surprisingly sweet and good. And I am thankful for those parts- those moments. May I be one who gazes at the good.
I was bolstered in the market today by a sweet elderly woman as she was trying her best to love her granddaughter- fighting back her fears the best she could. I am honored to know a young couple as they embrace the challenges life has thrown their way- not a hint of complaining or self-pity; though I am sure they have had their moments; and maybe still do.
They get up and go on. They know that is what we do.
Life is for living. Life is for loving.