Archive for life

The Rest is Silence.

Posted in FAITH, FAMILY and FUN, LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2008 by erikball123

I’m scared to die. They have an actual phobia for something like that, called Thanatophobia. Death is scary. Horror movies capitalize on the uncertainty and abruptness of it, while the majority of us are resigned to quietly wait for the day to come when we will rest in peace. For some reason, lately, I can’t do that.

Before I become a gloomy-Gus here…I hope my reputation will precede me as a joyful person who has a zest for life. I try to live each day to the fullest. But….well, I cannot help but think that one of these days I’m going to simply fall to pieces.

I’m fortunate really. No one in my immediate family has ever passed away. I remember my Great Grandma Bair dying and our family attending the funeral. I was very young. I recall accompanying my friend to a classmate’s funeral, but I was so removed from anyone in the room, the whole experience was very distant and cold. I remember the last two years at Faith Lutheran when a beloved senior girl died in a car crash, and an equally beloved young man took his own life. Two funerals in two years. And still…I felt removed.

It wasn’t until last week, when I attended a funeral for the spouse of one of my colleagues that I actually began rethinking about mortality. First and foremost…my friend and colleague is a very strong Christian woman, with an amazing family, and while I didn’t know her husband well, I know that the family remains heartsick and I continue to life them up in prayer. But, I think this whole shift of focus for me is also fueled, as I watch my beloved Grandmother age. In previous posts, (“I’m no Superman”), I detailed the recent scare my family endured when doctors wanted to have my Grandmother undergo surgery. Thinking it might possibly be cancer, everyone’s emotions were heightened. Those weeks sucked. I talked with Grandma often…we laughed…and I hung up the phone and cried. I recollected memories of us watching M.A.S.H. late at night after my coming home late from rehearsal in college. I remember the lunches Grandma packed for me when I’d go to class as a freshman in college, and the days I’d throw the majority of the contents away, because I was too cool for that. I hate myself for that now.

These scares as of late, these unexpected moments…have shaken my very firm foundation. I’ll be honest, for the first time in YEARS, I have a lot of questions…and fears.

You’ve heard it before. Those colorful people with snappy smiles quipping “I don’t want a funeral when I die! I want people to throw a party!” Blah, blah blah. What are you going to do, orchestrate it? Are you going to sit down next week and script out, organize and direct your own death party? No one is going to do that. And in the end, your family…thinking they know what’s best, WILL have a funeral for you. It’s a nice thought…but let’s get realistic here.

I’m not saying funerals are the way to go. I cannot grasp the REASON why we should have funerals. Closure? Perhaps…but death is pretty final, don’t you think? At least for now. Why does peering into a casket, or walking slowly down a aisle accompanied by snifflers dressed in black, toting Puffs Plus, help one to cope? How does letting it all out help one to cope? When there is unbelievable pressure behind a dam…the foreman doesn’t just say “let ‘er rip!” When a can of soda is shaken briskly…the thirsty drinker doesn’t just say, “oh, well…let’s pop it!” No, no, no. I think I would need to resolve myself to the fact that the person who is passing away is not walking through the door anymore. That person will never mutter another word.

Why on earth would I want to lay my eyes upon a casket? Forget about ever relying on me to identify someone involved in a tragedy, God forbid. I just simply couldn’t do it.

Am I scared to “go there?” I’m not sure. Do I lead a good life that I truly enjoy, and any reminder that this life on Earth will come to an end someday “darkens my days.” I suppose so. But, the funny part is…I still plug away. I manage to put my shoes on in the morning and make it through.

I pray a lot about this. I ask the Lord to please heal those who are sick, and bring comfort to those pained. I ask for more time, more patience, and swift reactions. I ask for a lot. Too much probably. But like a blind man needs his seeing eye dog to get from point A to point B…I need that prayer. I need that moment when it is just the Lord and me. I need that silence. Which is funny…because I’m a loud guy. I’m a talker with lots to say. I like loud music and crowds full of people. But the ONLY times I recall crying, are times when I’ve isolated myself or stifled my emotion in my hands.

I wish I had an answer. If any shrinks out there want to evaluate my melon…go for it. I’m sure there’s more that mere “fears” up there. But, the bottom line is, I really don’t care about the medical term, or the glossy definition of why I feel this way. More so, I just need….tomorrow.

When Jesus died on the cross, I wonder if He was thinking about tomorrow.  I like to think He was. I like to think the pain, the agony, the torture, the tears….were all stifled into that trust in tomorrow. Not even Jesus could predict exactly what would happen on that tomorrow but I think He had an idea…and more importantly He had faith.

I suppose my ashes should be spread on Broadway when I’m gone, right? Ha! Maybe I’ll do something creative with them, like flock a Christmas tree! Perhaps the BEST bet is to not worry about it. I know I won’t be worrying when I’m with my Lord in heaven. You’d think that a notion like that would be give comfort about the my fears of my wife, family and friends passing away, wouldn’t you? Funny…It doesn’t, really.

I suppose I’m just selfish. Caught up in a world of expected tomorrows, and overly paranoid yesterdays. For a guy who loves life so much, I sure do an awful lot of worrying.

My Grandmother’s test came back with good news. The old bird is up and puttering around her own home now, wearing the CROCS I got her. I expect her roller-skating and roofing the house in the next days. She’s something. My colleague friend is back to work and I gave her a hug in the office today. She looks good. I’m glad to see that she can go about her everyday again. Some say she’s at peace with things.

I’m okay, really. This post is going to come across as depressing, or self-loathing…but I swear I’m okay. Just thinking a lot. Just a bit selfish…a bit paranoid…a bit silly….and a bit fearful. But the fear of sharks never kept me out of the water, and I only have one life…I’m not going to waste it standing on the shore. I encourage you all to do the same. While the days may sometimes be long, and the paths we walk sometimes crooked…we’re never in control, we don’t know the outcome of this mystery novel, and the Lord will provide.

From MacBeth – Act. V, Sc. V – “Tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterday have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out! Out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow.”

Shakespeare’s so freaking cool!

White Noise.

Posted in FAITH, FAMILY and FUN, LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2008 by erikball123

I slept in this morning until about 10:30am. I’m finding as I get older that I cannot sleep like I used to. I recall in college not even bothering to register for a class before 11am. Now, there is some sort of internal clock that opens my eyes sometime around 9am. It’s a wonder how I lasted so long today.

While I found myself quite refreshed, recharged, etc. (And a smidge head-achy.) I also had a lot to think about regarding that decision to stay in bed and not roll out and do something more productive. Let me explain.

Recently, a friend of mine and colleague lost her husband to complication after a heart attack. It was sudden, it happened very quickly and my friend’s life has taken a huge detour as a result. While this particular situation is nothing less than tragic, it’s effecting me in a weird way. You see, (as you may have read in a previous post), my Grandmother who is very dear to me is heading into exploratory surgery this upcoming Tuesday. Something no one is looking forward to, especially me. She is my Superman and is in her late 70s, so any “procedure” is something to raise eyebrows about. So I’ve been thinking about that a lot, and as a result pondering mortality in general. I’ve never had someone close to me pass away. I recall my Great Grandma Bair passing when I was six years old. Grandma Bair played checkers with me and sang to me, and I remember her playing the piano at Thanksgiving once. But, in general, I’ve never experienced the tragedy of losing someone close to me.

At the passing of my friend’s husband…I’ve been catapulted back into the fuzzy world of “what’s going to happen next.” I’m nervous, confused, and saddened. I can’t imagine how my friend feels and my heart goes out to her.

Who hasn’t been forced to think about the ever present saying “Life is short.” Every effective marketing campaign begs consumers to act now before it’s too late. Whether or not you’re interested in that particular product…you either rush out to the shoe store to buy those new NIKEs and “Just Do It!” Or, you sit down and relax, choosing to stay home instead of heading off to McDonald’s, because you already “had your break today.

Currently we have Presidential candidates boxing back and forth trying to convince the American people that they are right person for the job. They argue, mud-sling, bear their claws, and appeal. They stand on their toes to try and “show” you that their cause, their efforts, their platform…is the most important, and ultimately deserving the right to run the free world. Hmmm. Supports, marketing and killer Vice-Presidential hopeful speeches aside, it sounds hard to do to me.

I wake up every day and go about my day facing the onslaught of “here’s what you need to do” and “right here, right now” and after a while it turns into white noise to me. I pick and choose what interests me the most and I tune the rest out. I tend to, as Barry Manilow says, “turn the radio up, and turn the negative down.”

These everyday marketing campaigns, these efforts to attract and influence….are they effective? Well, let’s take a look at my current situation. I consider myself an ignorant Lutheran. Someone who wants to live my life for Christ. I freely admit that I’m no scholar of the Bible, and I try through self-study, prayer and worship to gain a fuller understanding of what the Lord wants me to do. But throughout that journey, I find myself distracted…thoughtless….and tired. I sleep in. I don’t take advantage of the time that I have in a way that would be positive and influential. My marketing campaign stinks. I’m suppose to be a spokes-person for my Lord and savior, spreading the good word of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and I have a hard time getting both legs out of bed sometimes. In this time of sadness and worry, that doesn’t sit well with me.

One of the scariest verses in the Bible to me is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:2, and it details that the second coming of Christ will happen like a thief in the night. My first house was burglarized about 5 years ago. I remember that feeling of hopelessness and fear as I collected up the remainder of my personal belongings off the floor. Should I live in fear of the second coming? Should I live in fear of my own death? Lately, I wonder.

I don’t think God wants us to live a paranoid life filled with constant worry and grief. Instead I think He needs us to know about how great He truly is. It’s incomprehensible. I suppose we can find comfort in the fact that my friend’s husband is in heaven with his Father. But, for us who remain living this mortal life on Earth…what’s next?

I argue that unforeseen tragedies like my friend’s husband’s passing, and anxious, worry-filled moments like my Grandmother’s surgery…..or anything, like a pop quiz in your class, or a flat tire….all are opportunities to reflect on the greatest marketing campaign we could ever turn around and launch. “GOD IS LOVE.” Through Jesus Christ, all things are possible, and through Him there is salvation in heaven.

It’s not enough to live life trying to be a better Christian. It’s not enough to pray, to worship….to believe. It’s not enough to worry, to fear, to be thankful, to be passionate. It needs to be more. It’s can’t be a slogan on a billboard that others might just pass by. It can’t be something someone can tune out. We all must go out and make disciples of all nations. We must be that active force and that loud noise. Salvation through Christ for all should be a goal. If we live our lives day to day….sleeping in, putting off tomorrow and ultimately skirting our chief responsibility….we will have no excuse in the end. We left the door open for anything, let alone a thief to enter in the night.

So, what now? I don’t know. I know I’m not perfect. BY FAR! But I want SO badly to express my condolences to my friend, and I want so badly to express my faith, trust, and support to my grandmother in this scary time for her. How can I do this? By making sure that my Lord is in charge. By sharing that same Lord with these people, and everyone else within earshot. That’s the sweetest white noise one could hear.

1 Thessalonians 5:2
1Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

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