Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Soup Mugs and Bell Laps

I pulled a mug out of the cabinet today to fill with some soup for lunch on this chill, grey, April afternoon. The mug has our oldest child’s name on it. We bought it when he was in kindergarten in Kentucky. He’s in his second year of graduate school now in California.
We experience and mark the passing of time through changes small and large, and struggle to give sense and meaning to our journeys through the mysteries of time. I picked up that mug, and thought back to the cute and curious little boy who has grown into a fine young man. There is so much to love and celebrate in this, but there is also undeniable loss.
When I think back to our time in Kentucky, when our boys were so young, I recall one particular indelible moment of watching parents drop off their kids on move-in day at the University of Kentucky. I remember watching them and thinking, “we’ll be there before we know it.”
So we were, and now both boys are well into their higher educations, and our youngest is pondering the college choices she’ll be making soon.
She’ll be running in a track meet this afternoon, and, barring a late-afternoon rain, we’ll pull on some warm clothes to go cheer her on.
Track is fascinating sport: elemental in its focus on basic human movement over distance, as circular as the orbit of the planets, and demarcated uniformly in its careful divisions of time.
We all travel in circles as we run with perseverance the race that is set before us. Most of the time we don’t even notice the markings. The curves and stretches look pretty much the same unless someone calls out to get our attention: “hey, two laps to go; keep it up!” Or, in the run of ordinary time, “Hey, I’m going to kindergarten today! Hey, I’m going to college! Hey, I’m getting married!”
These markers along the way make meaning of the race we run.
This morning I checked the e-mail and discovered news of the untimely death of a friend in Florida, who left this mortal coil last night following a six-month struggle with cancer. He was roughly my age; a remarkable man who taught and inspired many along the way, as he ran well the race he was given. I was lucky enough to engage in some peacemaking work with him, and hanging in my office at church I have a ribbon of buttons from a Christian Peace Witness for Iraq event we helped plan together a half dozen years ago. Knowing of his illness, lately I have thought of him often when my eyes fall upon the buttons.
“Hey, I’m dying,” is not the call we wish to hear, but it will ring out for each of us more surely than the proverbial bell that reminds runners they’re on the final lap.
So much of the time we run these races with blinders, seeing only the patch of track upon which our next footfall will land. There’s nothing wrong with attending to the next step – indeed, it’s crucial that we do so lest we overlook the cracks in the surface of things. But when we can lift our eyes, even if just for a moment, to take in the fuller picture, we might catch glimpses of eternity in our midst in things as simple as a soup mug or a ribbon of peace-movement buttons.
Rest in peace, Tim Simpson. (Go ahead and click that link and learn a bit about Tim.)

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