Friday, December 31, 2010

Through it all: Sweet music of life

As 2010 winds down, I feel compelled to write again about two events from this past year. They stand out above the rest as evidence that even in the toughest times, the sweet music of life can be heard and shared.

The first is so bitter I hate to even write about it. On Jan. 5, as I was preparing to meet my brother in Weatherford to watch his daughter play basketball with her college team from Arkansas, I got a call from my mom saying Mike wouldn't be coming to Oklahoma. When I asked why, the news was stunning: My uncle Joe, who lived near Mike and his family in Arkansas, had been found dead that morning. Circumstances were tragic and unsettling and to this day seem incomprehensible. But as has happened every time my Mom or my Dad or anyone in their families have faced dire situations, close and extended family and friends rallied together in faith and fellowship to get through it. Some relationships seemed to grow stronger and become more treasured with the stark reminder of just how precious and fragile life is. In no way, shape or form did any of the positive outcomes make up for the loss and heartache. But I think a powerful lesson of life and faith is that even in the worst of times, we have choices. Even in the face of my uncle's irreversible choice that seemed to be born of hopelessness, survivors chose to find hope and forgiveness and precious memories and the faithfulness of God.

The second development began in mid-August. When my Dad, a longtime (but by then ex-) smoker who also has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema, decided it was time for a chest x-ray, a small spot was found on a lung. Thus began a series of doctor's visits and tests and evaluations; a cancer diagnosis; indecision and decisions -- and eventually surgery on Oct. 5. After initially amazing results and recovery and then some setbacks and discouragement, he left the final hospital Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving.

I've written many words about this as Dad and Mom and the family went through the decisions and the results of those decisions. Many of those words are in past blog posts. Tonight, I'm just trying to feel and put into words some of my love and joy and gratitude for God and my parents and my family and friends. And words still come up woefully short. How do you convey through written words a smile, a hug and the warm pulse of a beating heart? Close your eyes, and maybe you'll see and feel it.

At least on the surface, many things continue to look bleak as I prepare to turn the calendar page. There are loved ones in poor health or without jobs. Some aspects of our culture, the economy and world are frightening. We're all getting older ....

But the year that's ending teaches me not to be afraid -- or at least to not stay afraid. It's OK to feel moments of sadness, discouragement, grief, frustration, anger and fear. But I need not let them paralyze me. "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. ... He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. ... Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever" (Psalm 23).

Even when I recite the 23rd Psalm in my head, I hear music -- the sweet music of life that flows from faith, family, friendship and spirit. May I never cease to seek it and share it -- and give the glory to God.

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