"when you're up, you'll be up
you'll have love, you'll have luck,
and when it goes,
you won't see it coming."
josh ritter -- wild goose
There are events I witnessed in the final days of mom's life that were so intense, shocking and sacred that I don't know if I'll ever share them publicly -- perhaps not even privately aside from my husband (for we are one). Among the multiple life-changing lessons learned of this time was this one: death does not wait until you are ready. It doesn't ask your permission. It doesn't make sure you got to do and say everything you wanted to. It says "Come. Now. Let's go." with no questions asked, compassion, patience or final wishes. I feel blessed to have had as much time to prepare for good-bye as we did. Dozens and dozens of memories made and conversations had that so many others don't get. We are grateful. And yet… we thought we had a few weeks, not a few days. When you're losing someone for the rest of this life the difference between 'weeks' and 'days' is much. We had a few more plans. We had a few more ideas. We had a few more memories we wanted to make. And were told "No. It's the end."
It's a sincerely good lesson. I don't want to learn it twice. I don't want to presume upon finances "in five years," or "more time together after the next raise," or "once the kids are older." Once we own a house, after we have X-much saved, when we're done having kids, after we finish this or that, once I'm done nursing, someday. I don't want to bank my being-alive on presumptions I, quite frankly, don't have. I'm fully (fully) aware that there is an important role for Responsibility, Money To Pay The Bills, A Nest Egg, Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and Long Term Goals + Vision. In fact, I think those things and "living in the moment" go hand in hand. They aren't as contradictory as we might believe sometimes.
This isn't a call to stop having dreams and plans, it's a call to start acting on them. It's writing for the heart of a woman who wanted to meet more grandbabies, attend more graduations, visit Hawaii at least one more time, heck, make just another meal for her kids. There are some things we simply can't speed up (an eleven-year-old just can't graduate from college, you can't order a baby to be delivered overnight) but there are decisions we can stop waiting on. Life we can act on now. Drastic lifestyle changes we can make that we would not regret on our death beds.
I want an old, gray, toothless, saggy lifetime with my husband, but if I don't get that -- like my dad -- I want to know we lived as full a life together we possibly could have. That there was more doing - even against odds, logic and resources - than "someday-ing."
So. We've rented a home in Southern California for a month. All of April will be spent doing something we've dreamed of for a few years now; together -- husband, wife + son. We're going to walk and ride bicycles to-and-fro. He's going to play music on the street. We're going to live off the cash he makes. We're going to buy local farmer's market produce, cook together, make breakfast together, eat meals together. And not rush out the door to work. While Caleb and Roo explore the beach or the park or the backyard, I'm going to write. I'm attempting to return to Maryland with a full rough-draft manuscript. I'd like to publish a real, touchable book. I'll share more about said book in the future, but it's inspired by mom. We'd like to get tan -- we're so happy and alive in the sun.
There are a few reasons this trip isn't "best" right now: winter is the slow season for both of our businesses, we're trying to save to finish our Oklahoma home, we've had unexpected expenses recently, we don't like taking Rowdy away from family, and more. But, then again, there is no better time because it's time that is real and time we do have now, which is the best time of all.
"Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as 'the good life,' a person happy doing his own work is considered an eccentric if not subversive. Ambition is only understood if it's to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success.
Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential. As if a job title and salary are the measure of human worth. You'll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you're doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out and I guarantee you'll hear about them. To invent your own life's meaning is not east, but it's still allowed and I think you'll be happier for your trouble." Bill Watterson, author and creator of Calvin & Hobbes
To end, I want to dramatically and emotionally thank you. A large part of the motivation, clarity and eagerness for this trip and the next steps in our life are a result of you. You who acted on buying plane tickets, with money out of your own wallets, to stand with us at the memorial. Well over a dozen of you did so -- that's thousands of spontaneously spent dollars. You who drove hours from out-of-state; who made the trip when it would have been so easy not to. You who gave to the Mama Bear Fund -- we'll be able to give the kids a few more memories Mama wanted to give them herself because of your kindness. You who sent flowers, care packages, snack boxes, handwritten notes, texts, e-mails, full meals and other gifts. You who specifically took time to encourage me "You should write." Each of those was a thought in your mind that required action, and you took it. We must have received thousands of 'tokens' of love in a weeks' time. You moved us. You were poured out upon a dry and weary land. You held us up when our legs were broken.
This trip is in honor of the life, legacy and lesson learned from my mother, but also in honor of the local and worldwide crowd that has carried us. You have gone out of your way to bring us to the house, cut a hole in the roof, and lower us straight to Jesus. We were crippled, and of course the pain remains, but you did not leave us alone to die. Thank you. I want to write in order to, perhaps, bless one family someday in the way you've blessed mine. Thank you. We'll think of you fondly while we listen to the waves.
(Ps. This is for you, mama.)