I have decided that life is like a game of “Pick-Up Sticks”. You remember that game, don’t you? You toss a bunch of long, plastic sticks on the table, and try to pick up one of them without disturbing the rest of the bunch. But inevitably, and even though you are careful and follow the rules, you just can’t help causing vibrations that affect the rest of the sticks.
Last Saturday I was painting a horse on a wall. And I was full of blithe - I was feeling carefree, happy and cheerful. I had the music turned up loud, and I was singing almost as loudly. Then my sister walked through the door, carrying with her some very sad news. There had been a car wreck near Watonga, and a couple from Vici (where Heather lives) had been killed. Sherry and Gene were not only friends, but Sherry was also Heather’s co-worker at the bank.
Nancy soon left, and I went back to painting. But my joyous spirit had been transformed into a spirit filled with sorrow. I was thinking of the family left behind, the family whose lives would now be forever altered. I felt such empathy for them, because I knew, just like so many of you, that the world would never again look the same as it did the moment before the accident.
My ‘alteration’ happened one hot, August afternoon in 1969. One minute before, I was a blithe spirited eleven year old. One minute later, the sun changed places in the sky and the birds quit singing, as my world was knocked off its axis. My dad didn’t die that day, but it was that day I learned there is but a tenuous thread that runs between our first breath and our last breath. And for a long time, perhaps for years, I held my breath and waited for that thread to break, not realizing how strong it was or how much beauty it held in place - in that space between birth and dying.
Was it thirty years ago, was it a decade ago, was it last month or last week, that you were faced with having to say a sudden or a long “goodbye” to someone you loved? Did you think, if only for a minute, that no one understood what you were feeling? Did you wonder how people could keep on laughing, keep on worrying about the petty ‘little things’, keep on living when you just wanted to curl up and make the world go away?
Yes, these are questions we’ve all asked somewhere along the way. We asked them, and then with time, we understood them. And with more time we were able to once again laugh. We found ourselves thinking about the petty ‘little things’. We uncurled our bent bodies and our bent spirits, and we were blessed with a thick coating of compassion for what others are going through.
And so these thoughts swirled in my heart and mind as I kept painting that horse. I recalled with fondness, so many beautiful faces, so many sweet memories, so many moments shared with so many souls that no longer walk within the boundaries of this earth.
And with each brush stroke, as the image of the horse began to appear, I thought, “This is what life is….that moment, that wonderful and sometimes scary stretch of time between the sketching and the completion of the picture.” And it is within that span of time, when we’re not sure what the final outcome will look like, that we must dare to open up our eyes and our imagination, and live! It is okay to mix up the colors, it’s okay to get paint on our hands, it’s okay to take risks and yearn to create a wonderful work of art, entitled “My Life”.
And by doing so - by appreciating and truly living life - we bring honor to those who have walked on ahead of us. We carry their torch in our heart of hearts. And then we embrace the altered world, as we turn up the tunes and learn to sing a blithe-filled song of thankfulness!