It continues to get curiouser and curiouser out there. Lines that were clear have been redrawn as the current crisis overwhelms society’s ability to deal with it. What once was right is now left and vice versa. I find myself with strange bedfellows, as there is a new and odd bipartisanship around two distinct outlooks – do we want public safety or public freedom? Even though there are many valid viewpoints, and gray is the new black & white, it has become common to denigrate one position in order to validate the other. I have even been told I am weak and fearful for opting for safety.
Interesting times, indeed.
Last night I detached from the corona controversy and did a review of my life. I have managed to stay married to my wife for 36 years (or maybe she has managed to stay married to me?). Good years, hard fought years, challenging years, but here we are. We have been blessed with four children, all J names – Jeremy, Jennifer, Jamie, and John, but all quite different, all challenging, all interesting, all brilliant. Each of them is an educated, hard-working, tax-paying patriotic American, although each in differing ways. Three of them are married to wonderful spouses that we are happy to have in our family, and those unions have produced four delightful grands that we do not have to raise, but just enjoy.
My life adventures include visiting at least 37 states and living in 6, plus the District of Columbia. I have been fortunate to find myself in many memorable locales – I’ve climbed the Eiffel Tower in Paris, gondolaed the canals of Venice, tiptoed through the tulips in Holland, gazed up at Mt. Rushmore in wonder, and swooned as the moon rose over Diamond Head. I have backpacked up hardscrabble mountain trails, canoed down a swift-running river, and jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. I have spent countless hours traveling with that aforementioned wife, each and every one of those hours a treasure and a keepsake.
Since a man’s gotta work, I have found gainful employment, but not a career, in many vocations. I have stocked the shelves at Woolco, hung ductwork on construction sites, learned precision metal fabrication and later plastic fabrication – I have made parts for Stinger missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles, among others. I was a house husband back when such a thing was rare, later worked in ministry planning leadership conferences and designing publications. I spent too many hours on a couple new car lots, “selling cars like candy bars” as we used to say, before switching over to real estate, where I remained, and prospered, until health problems ended my work life. Each and every work experience added value, and memories, to my life.
Because of my diverse background and interests, my wife Diana calls me a renaissance man, maybe a grander title than I deserve, but I’ll take it. I enjoy knowledge and art, always have a book in process, am engrossed in music appreciation, and love to create and craft things. Food and wine are two of life’s great pleasures, and I love the kitchen and enjoy a great glass of Bordeaux or other fine dry red wine. I am constantly remodeling the home we own, refining it for our lifestyle, making it a sanctuary for us and a welcoming place for family and friends.
There are many people wealthier than me, but none are richer.
On the other side of the coin, I have faced cancer and heart problems and a viral disease that nearly killed me. By my count there have been four times that could have indeed killed me, without good intervention, and each has left a mark on my body and my soul. As a couple we have faced trials with our children, and we have had to face the heartbreaking loss of unborn children. We have been so broke that we fed a family of six on $40 a week, and proudly drove our old station wagon, headliner flapping in the breeze, with the kids all piled inside. We have been betrayed by friends, used and abused by authority, suffered at the hands and actions of bad people. We have always recovered but bear the emotional scars for each episode.
I share all that because I have loved life, and still find plenty of good reasons to stay alive. I want to enjoy the fruits of my efforts and my suffering. And I want those that I love, my wife and kids and grandkids, to enjoy me being here. Life is for living, and I particularly enjoy it sung this way:
“And when the black cloak drags upon the ground
I’ll be ready to surrender, and remember
Well we’re all in this together
If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.”
The Avett Brothers, 2012
You see, I am not weak and fearful. And I am not afraid of dying.
I am afraid of being that sick again. I am afraid of lying intubated and comatose while my wonderful wife is wracked with fear. I am afraid of my children having to suffer, watching their father helpless and dying. I am afraid of traveling the long road back to life knowing that, while I survived, I will bear in my body the scars and brokenness left by a horrendous disease.
Is that so hard to understand?
Maybe this modern spin on something Jesus said sums it up:
“Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.” Matthew 10:28
We live in interesting times. I hope we can regain civility, embrace sanity, remember why we are here. I hope you will look back on your life, at all the things that were great and wonderful, while not leaving out all the things that were ugly and painful. I pray you have reason to live, reason to stay here, reasons that give you the sense to put what is truly important first.
Do not be afraid to live, and, if you do it right, you will not be afraid to die.