“it’s okay”

The most popular question by far, following a loved ones funeral, is “how ya doin’? (concerned look)”. I appreciate it. And here’s how I answer that question:

Well, it’s not easy, but it’s okay. It’s been a tough run. The good part is that we had some quality time with Mom to laugh, cry, plan, ask and hear. Lots of people don’t get that kind of luxury. Best of all, she’s in heaven. And we’ll see her again someday.

Of course, this is the answer that adrenaline gives. And, of course, its okay. Biologically speaking, everything is okay right now, since my body has put me into some kind of “just go” trance that keeps my arms and legs moving while I stare at the horizon.

I have been thinking about the death of Jesus, given that we are in the season of Easter. After his resurrection, Jesus catches up with a couple of his disciples, morning His death as they walk down a dirt path, perhaps running on the same adrenaline that I am now. Jesus sneaks up and walks beside them. The disciples don’t know that it is the Man, risen. Jesus, disguised as some random walker, asks why they’re so sad. He listens as they answer a question that He already knows the answer to, both because He is God and because He is the one they’re talking about. Suddenly, their eyes are opened, and not long after that the stranger on the road ascends.

Here’s what I find fascinating: Jesus doesn’t ease their pain. He lets them pour their sadness out to a divinely disguised stranger. He doesn’t bust out a magic wand (does He have one?) and go >POOF<, you're okay now, it's me, etc. He lets them dwell in sadness, as if that's what we're supposed to do. It's another case of God could, but He doesn't, so why is that and what am I supposed to learn?

I should add that what I learn is not the primary motive behind God's actions. The primary motive behind God's actions are to bring glory to Himself. It seems pretty egotistical, insensitive and self-serving, but that's because we know our own hearts. If I try to bring glory to myself, its in vain, since I know that I'm messed up and that I don't deserve it. But God does. So it is fitting for my faith in Him to be deepened during a time of tragedy. See 1 Peter 1:3-9, which helped me out quite a bit this week.

It's okay, says the guy whose arms and legs are moving normally while his eyes search for what cannot be seen.

bedside

I’ve spent most of today sitting and watching my Mom breathe. It will likely be pretty much the last thing she’ll do on earth. Her eyes are closed and her hand is warm. She’s beautiful. Her sleep is sometimes interrupted by pain, made evident by a grimace or a quiet moan. When that happens, we push a button and medicine is delivered in the most direct way possible. Seconds pass and she’s back to a gentle sleep. It’s the same sleeping face I remember seeing when I was a scared four year old, laying — cowering, really — next to her while a thunderstorm rumbled through. I knew I was safe because she seemed okay with the whole thing, mumbling that it was okay and that I could go back to sleep. I laid next to her and felt safe. She was asleep. Soon, so was I.

I wish I could say I felt the same kind of safety and comfort now. I can’t. Not yet, at least.

Attention Christians: Yes. Jesus makes it okay. But Jesus still wept when Lazarus died. Believe me, I know the Max Lucado lines. I’ve delivered them and have heard even more. Platitudes didn’t work on a weeping Savior and they don’t work that well on me right now. It’s okay to dwell in the pain, so don’t feel like I need to be talked out of it, Christian style. Let me recommend that you instead take a moment to somehow thank your mom for something she did for you when you were little. Just a little Pastoral advice, I suppose.

Thanks for praying for me and my family right now. Your support is much appreciated. Soon, Mom will be with Jesus, the same One who wept with those who wept and now reigns over all, conquering sin and removing the sting of death.

Brick and Mortar Bookstore

I’m looking over a sea of books that reaches to every possible edge, stacked on shelves which are stacked on an expanse of floor. Within a 30,000 square foot space, I can see 6 people browsing the store and making their decisions about which book they’ll go home and order on Amazon. A mom picks through children’s books and finally settles on a Mercer Meyer book, perhaps hoping that her kid will finally submit to brushing his teeth. A man that looks like Harry Potter’s lesser known brother, Bill Potter, is talking quietly on his phone while he wanders up and down the aisle of books about web design. A daddy and his daughter are slowly working through the best-seller tables, always with an eye on the next stack. A girl flips through magazines with general malaise, consulting a hand-written list with growing boredom.
The lady with the knee brace is obviously a search party, looking for someone and trying to peer over the short shelves, despite her shorter disposition. She is walking too swiftly for a person wearing a knee brace, perhaps driven by the urgency that comes with the feeling that she lost him, this time in a book store.
He’s looking at maps. His leather coat has an international flare, as if he’s planning a motorcycle tour through Belgium. Who knows? Maybe not even he does. Knee brace breezes past him and continues the search, so it’s obviously not him. Looks like it will be a motorcycle trip for one.
A woman with a nagging purse is peering, head cocked, at the spines of graphic novels. She takes a book off of the shelf but does not merely judge it by its cover, taking the time to judge it by thumbing through some pages in the middle. If she pauses long enough mid-flip, she ends up turning the book over and reading the back cover, using her free hand to push a chunk of hair out of the way.
Motorcycle Leather is now rambling through the sports & fitness category, stopping again to take a right turn into the travel section. Something pulls him back to this section, as if an irresistible power is whispering that he should expand his horizons and finally have that mid-life crisis that so many of his friends did back in the 90’s.
A bookstore employee squeezes behind Motorcycle Leather, wheeling an empty hand cart as if it will bounce customers out of the way as he makes yet another trip to the front of the store. He’s probably the guy who put those travel books there in the first place, one night, after everyone left. And he will probably be the one who rearranges them again before the day is done.
Graphic novel girl is checking out, having finally found what she was looking for. Would she like to join the rewards club and get 10% off? Probably not, what with the whole bankruptcy thing and all.
Daddy and daughter have left the store. They did not buy. They did not join the rewards club.
Bill Potter disappeared, too. Perhaps he used his powerful rewards club card to pull this off?
Mom puts the Mercer Meyer book on a shelf in the travel section, a section that is now missing its best customer of the last 20 minutes. Cart guy sees what happens when mom puts the kid’s book in the travel section, exhales heavily and makes a note to grab it on the next trip. The wheels of the cart squeak loudly, which was much easier to ignore now than it was when his shift began.

Airplane Holes

I have a philosophy as it relates to air travel, expressed in three distinct axioms:

1. The TSA can, but I’m not going to like it.

2. I might need two seats, using the first for my carriage and the second for my legs.

3. No holes in airplanes.

There are other guidelines that I abide by, but these three are, as of this extemporaneous writing, the most important points of air travel for me.

I revised my third axiom following an incident involving a Southwest 737 that made national news after the atmosphere ripped a hole in the body of the plane, causing a sudden drop in pressure and leading to an emergency landing, possibly ending up in some crazy old lady’s yard. You know the type, with the double-barrel shot gun and the ironclad grip on trespassing laws, the cackling laugh and the broken english. I’m not sure if the last part happened, but everything else did.

After the whole hole thing, Southewest elected to inspect its other planes, and, surprise, found more subsurface cracks that would theoretically cause the same kind of disaster to take place. Hm.

I compare these happenings with the general principle, spoken by pilots everywhere, that air travel is safer than driving. I’ve never had a hole form in the fuselage of my Jeep, so I guess I’m comparing apples to oranges here. The Jeep does have some subsurface cracks, so I’m keeping the Bondo handy.

Here’s my solution: combine the relative safety of air travel with the adventure of the open road by having the plane drive. Passengers board the plane, the tower clears them, not to take off but to merge, the pilot turns his blinker on and merges on to I-94 and hits I-275 and then I-75 south, all the way to beautiful Jacksonville, Florida. Bridges and overpasses will not be a problem after the first bridge, since that will snap the tail clean off. With so many scrap metal yards in Metro Detroit, the highway will go into the kind of frenzy not seen since the great cupcake spill of ’89.

We can stop at some Waffle Houses on the way, eating in shifts OR stopping at a classy exit with multiple Houses of Waffle. They really do exist, by the way.

If truckers are being persistent and passing the guy going 55mph by driving 56mph in the Left lane for 9 miles, then we can momentarily gain altitude to make passing traffic a breeze. Also, the accompanying breeze from the engines will be appreciated by other motorists who think that air conditioning is the reason their mileage is so bad on the Hummer.

Once we get to Florida, it’s just a matter of parking someplace that has room for a jetliner. They call it an airport, so no worries there. Also, because we’ve been going 100mph, we’re there in no time flat. The captain/co-captain driving rotation makes even more sense when you’re fly-driving (or flyving), since their shifts always allowed one to drive and the other to sleep.

Bathrooms on board would reduce the need for a stop at a Rest Area to a minimum, only pulling over after the Stuffed Pork Ala Mode is served on the first evening. Listen, it’s a plane, not a miracle worker.

If the police should pull the plane over for speeding, opening questions like “do you know how fast you were going?” can be deflected by asking the officer “well… do you know how far above sea level you were?”. Dumbfounded, the policeman will go back to his car and try to run the plates, but to no avail. It broke off in Cincinnati.

That’s my idea. Flyving. It would truly be the best of both worlds. And the best part? If a hole forms in the body of the plane, we’ll just take turns poking our heads out to get a new perspective on our very safe trip to sunny, spacious Florida.

Garrison Keillor Said…

Garrison “Well, it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my hometown (applause)..” Keillor said that taking a walk is one of the best things you can do when you’re feeling down, confused, or unsettled. We’re dealing with quite a bit as a family right now, of which some readers of this blog are already aware. I won’t say much, yet, since I think it needs the dignity of staying “unspoken”, if you’ll pardon the language of the Christian subculture. It’s nothing bad, well, I mean, nothing bad like a bad moral decision or anything — just the natural progression of life.

So, I’ll now take a walk to mark the end of a rather long last two weeks. The journey is not complete, but I think ol’ Gary is right: walking is good for the soul. I wonder if its because God can finally get his hands around us, if we let Him, to give us a cosmic hug and whisper that it’s all going to be OK, because the same one who holds me also holds eternity.