This morning I woke up slow and full of ripe abundance. I considered my family and their health, and my relationships to them. I thought about the financial resources that afforded my husband and I to go on a date last night to our favorite special place, Cloverdale. For the luscious food we got to eat there. For my in-laws who babysat our kids so we could.
As I laid there in my comfy warm bed it occurred to me that I was thankful for that too. Then, as I always do, I started to run through my day. It is Friday and on Friday I’ve got Ellie at home with me and I don’t usually workout. This fact normally makes me very happy, but this morning I was grateful that I could work out. That my legs worked correctly and that I had the time. Wonder of wonders. I almost wished I could workout.
I remembered that my sister was planning to come over with my nieces this morning. I thanked God that Ellie had cousins on both sides of the family to grow up with. How lucky. How blessed.
It’s raining today.
A 48 year old man died yesterday in town on a construction site close to our house. I passed the site yesterday and saw police officers taking pictures. I didn’t suspect anything like this. It could have been my husband.
Yesterday morning that man ate breakfast and headed off to work like he had thousands of times before. An ordinary day. Ordinary in every way, except that it was his last.
Did he have kids? I asked my husband.
No. But a wife.
Why do I always ask if there are kids? The second I find out the answer is no, it makes no difference. There is a wife and she is in pain today. There’s always a wife or husband or child or mother or father. Someone always grieves. It’s like I want everyone who dies to have no loved ones. I want them to have lived alone as a hermit with no family ties so that no one has to grieve their death.
Because grieving death is so final. When you grieve someone you love, you will grieve them all the days of your life from that day forward. There will always be a before and an after. It’s the saddest burden to have to carry. And also an honor. Because, of course, when there are people who grieve it means that there were people in this world who loved you and that you loved in return who carry the memory of you. Who cherish you, still. The more people who grieve, the better the life, really. So while I want the departed to have no grieving loved ones, I also want them to have dozens and dozens and dozens.
When I find out the man’s name I look him up on Facebook. I always do this when people die. I look them up and stare into their faces and read the things they posted. I do this to confirm that yet again, this person was a real live human being with things to say and travels past and people loved and a life lived.
I just can’t believe it.
I think I look to hope that they weren’t real. But they always are.
I look up the loved ones too. To study the faces of the people who yesterday were living as normal but today everything has changed. They will be me someday. We all just take turns with loss. I pray for them. I pray for the peace of God to wrap them up like a weighted blanket. To whisper yes it hurts, but that the promise is for a reunion someday not too far from now. It’ll only be a blink. I pray they would eventually see their grieving as an honor to be had, the mark of a life well lived. The hope yet to come. But not today. I know these words mean nothing today. Today we cry. We steep in the pain and we let them steep in the pain. It’s the beginning stage of healing. The holy baptism of pain.
And this morning, I am reminded of all I have. I don’t think about what I don’t have. Not today. I don’t focus on the sufferings of parenting a handicapped daughter unable to speak, or that I’m going through what seems to be a mini midlife crisis of answering the question “what am I supposed to be doing with my life?” I don’t grumble that I’ve got to figure out what is for dinner and fold the laundry and call that person back that I don’t want to. Or resent that I can’t take a nap today even though my head hurts and I’m tired.
How dare I do any of that anyway. I know that we cannot always live through the lens like this precious day grants us. I know I’ll complain again and it’ll be okay. This is life.
I’m reminded of what David Cassidy said on his deathbed…”So much wasted time.”
So much wasted time.
The regret in that statement is heavy.
We cannot live everyday like it is our last. And we cannot be grateful for everything, and love everyone perfectly, one hundred percent of the time. And yet, that’s what we ache for. That’s what we wish we could do. When faced with the end, that’s the lens we wish we would have seen the world through more.
I hate being a flawed human.
But also, that’s all I can ever be.
The flawed human who grumbles and hurts people but wishes they could live and love and pay careful attention to everything perfectly. How do you reconcile that?
I happened upon an essay yesterday written by my favorite, Glennon Doyle, about the difference between Chronos time and Kairos time. She explained that there is this idea in the world that you need to MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT and ENJOY EVERYTHING, but how, in her experience, as well meaning as this is, it’s also…impossible?
It’s also only usually said by people not in the messy middle of things. The older women in the Target checkout line would tell Glennon to enjoy every moment of raising her children. Just every moment. They say it to me too. They say this because they are afforded the benefit of coming at it with nostalgia and perspective. They are no longer in the trenches and feeling guilt about just having yelled at her children because they needed to be disciplined but you just couldn’t summon the resolve to go about it in a more constructive way, and now they are crying and probably need therapy.
The idea behind Chronos time is that, this is the time we most live in. It’s the time where all the kids are crying, or you are in pain or complain mode. It’s the daily grind. it’s the distraction of having to get everything done. It’s the hard, meaningless, slow passing time.
Then there is Kairos time, which is God’s time. Glennon describes Kairos time as, “time outside of time.”
It’s the time that takes place when you actually look at somebody. When you notice and connect. When you pay careful attention to the warm tea cup in your hand and the cinnamon smell coming from your cup and it makes you feel grateful and safe. When you witness a spectacular pink sunset and it captures your attention for more than 10 seconds and you don’t even take your phone out to take a picture because you just want to behold. You behold a lot in Kairos time. When you bury your nose in your children’s hair and soak in the warm sleep smell of the early morning. When you laugh hard with your husband after tequila and pizza on the porch and never want the night to end. Kairos.
I think what David Cassidy meant when he said “so much wasted time” was that he wished he’d known to spend more of his time in Kairos and less in Chronos.
Kairos time shows us the abundance and sweetness in our lives. It’s slow and healthy and gift. When we live in Kairos time, we feel most alive and we hold court with peace and joy. It’s where we find richness and meaning and beauty.
I think this is because God is there. God is with us. He always is, but Kairos time helps us notice Him a little better, amongst everything.
If death is a perspective shifter, then I think the best way to honor those who have helped us see with their passing, is to keep trying to live in Kairos time. Because it’s the only kind of living that matters in the end.
We won’t get it right, by any means. We won’t always remember, but we must be gentle with ourselves. No need to feel badly about that. We can’t live in Kairos all the time here. I have a feeling that’s reserved for heaven. So no need to grieve the time lost, or chances wasted in the past. There’s always more.
There is more time. More chances. More life.
Even after death.
God is with us.