Of Days Fading

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Our little Iraq War veteran friend that I have blogged about over the last couple of weeks is now at the Hospice House where my sculpture “Embracing the Journey” resides. The sculpture is given this name because I believe God to be a welcoming, loving God that wraps His arms around us at death and gives us rest from the exhausting journey at life’s end. I spent an afternoon cleaning it before she arrived, not realizing that she would be coming to this last physical place of Embrace. Bronze sculptures need to be cleaned every so often in order to restore their beauty and luster.

Gosh this Hospice House is a beautiful place! There is art work on the inside and out, a chapel with stained glass windows, quiet walk ways and paths through the woods, and spacious patient rooms with hard wood floors. It is a place unlike any other and it holds wonderful comfort for those in their final days on earth.

A few days ago we came to our friends room just in time to see her move as quickly as we had seen her move in a while. Her sister, bless her, was trying to get her to take an online concoction that made claims of curing all sorts of diseases including cancer. I suppose anything, anything, is worth trying, at least in her sister’s mind, to stave off the untimely ending that is coming to someone so young. As we opened the door to her room, she was walking away from her bed, quickly shuffling her feet and when she saw us, she went to her wheel chair and asked to go for a ride. The “miracle fix” tasted “awful” she said, and she was getting out of there before another dose! It would have been funny if not for the desperation that was settling in on this moment.

We left her room and exited the building with me pushing her in the wheelchair along the concrete walkway. With friends and family in tow, we circled the grounds, through the trees and plants and ending it near the sculpture I had created. We listened to a male cardinal singing his “pretty, pretty, pretty” chorus, high above us in a tall oak tree. We went by a little pond that had a fountain and watched a fisherman trying to catch a fish and we talked about how she and I needed to do that one day. We looked in awe at a thunderhead off in the distance with the rays of the setting sun and fading days light reflecting off of it, causing the clouds to turn purple and pink. Finally, we watched the fireflies that were illuminating the grounds as the day was slowly closing.

A firefly almost rested on her and I asked, “Can I catch a firefly for you?’ She exclaimed “Yes!” I then reached out with both hands and gently grabbed the one that had to tried to land on her shoulder. I bent over, hands cupped together so as not to squish the little bug, and passed it along to her. She cupped her hands over mine, only to have the little fly crawl out from between our clutched hands. For a moment I felt life fleeting, the hands that would rest, and not be able to catch fire flies in the not too distant future. The little bug rested for a moment on one of her tiny fingers, only to spread its wings and fly away, giving a quick flash of light as if to say in the only way that it could that a journey of light and lift off awaits you too!

She was soon exhausted from our ride and we headed back to her room of balloons, flowers, cards and drawn pictures, and we helped her crawl into her bed, worn out from the short ride. There are two images before me now that are becoming as clear as the art that I create. One of life as it is with the physical and emotional pain of bodies that don’t heal, of life that grows more complicated, of questions unanswered, and of life becoming whatever it is that we make of it.

The other reality is an echo of what is to come, not of pain and suffering, but of something far more peaceful: a place. Not just any place mind you, but a beautiful place, found in the beauty of fireflies and thunderheads, of cardinals singing their romantic songs, where there is no more suffering and no more tears, where the sun bounces its brilliant rays off of the towering white clouds, turning the sky pink and purple, but only now, now, unfading and unending.

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Brokenness

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The clay pot is sealed and buried in the middle of the beaten down clay dirt floor. It is all they have. There is no bank to invest it in. There is no portfolio, no 401K. It is all they have and they pray they will not need it anytime soon. But they know if they need it, they can access it, digging it up, and breaking the clay pot that it resides in.

I am not sure if anyone has ever done a “gospel according to the clay pot that houses the family treasure.” What would it say if it could talk? Perhaps it would say, “My greatest purpose is not yet realized! I will have to be busted and broken for you to get at what I am holding!” Maybe it would echo, “I am made by the hands of a great potter, as are you, and my purpose will never be realized until I am broken, just like you.” But there is that inference right there in the holy writ. Paul talked about it as he dealt with his own brokeness. It was as if he understood that to be fully human and fully purposeful is realized only when we are broken.

It is a novel concept, isn’t it? In a society of hunks and hormones, of strength and stamina, we are given the illustration by Paul that we are a pot, formed by a great potter,and that found inside of us is a treasure, which is released and given by only being broken. Unexpected illness, unexplained death, hopes destroyed, grieving, heart-wrenching, cancer filled; broken!

It is T-minus 11 days and I pray I have done this special art piece the justice it deserves. It will be surrounded at the time of it’s presentation by hundreds of art pieces that have been completed by artists whose health was in no way compromised and they were able to spend months and years on some of them, concentrating with no distractions, each stroke of the hand having nothing in the way but his or her own imagination. I will be compared to each of them accordingly with so few having a faint clue to the person behind the creation of this flying wood duck that I have called, “Beaver Pond Woody”.

I have yet to know why in the world I chose to do of all ducks, a flying one and on top of that, the most colorful of all ducks, all complicated with the fact that the artist doing this piece is “all broke up.” My day begins by placing my brain in gear for the pain that will momentarily run throughout my body. Bed is my good friend and enemy, all wrapped up in one. I start by massaging my hands, rubbing my neck, massaging my back, trying to get up enough strength to stand, grabbing door facings, an ironing board, anything that will help me to start. Each breath and every heartbeat shoots a signal to my brain that I am not at my best because I am broken.

I think of the work that lies before me for this day. I think of my children where each day brings their own set of stressors and I think about the person God has given me to walk with, in the midst of it all and I pray. For all that I don’t understand and all that awaits and the reasoning beyond my own understanding of pain and suffering, I stop and pray for one thing: that the treasure that is found inside of this broken pot will be of value to the brokenness of our own world.

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Of Days Fading

image

Our little Iraq War veteran friend that I have blogged about over the last couple of weeks is now at the Hospice House where my sculpture “Embracing the Journey” resides. The sculpture is given this name because I believe God to be a welcoming, loving God that wraps His arms around us at death and gives us rest from the exhausting journey at life’s end. I spent an afternoon cleaning it before she arrived, not realizing that she would be coming to this last physical place of Embrace. Bronze sculptures need to be cleaned every so often in order to restore their beauty and luster.

Gosh this Hospice House is a beautiful place! There is art work on the inside and out, a chapel with stained glass windows, quiet walk ways and paths through the woods, and spacious patient rooms with hard wood floors. It is a place unlike any other and it holds wonderful comfort for those in their final days on earth.

A few days ago we came to our friends room just in time to see her move as quickly as we had seen her move in a while. Her sister, bless her, was trying to get her to take an online concoction that made claims of curing all sorts of diseases including cancer. I suppose anything, anything, is worth trying, at least in her sister’s mind, to stave off the untimely ending that is coming to someone so young. As we opened the door to her room, she was walking away from her bed, quickly shuffling her feet and when she saw us, she went to her wheel chair and asked to go for a ride. The “miracle fix” tasted “awful” she said, and she was getting out of there before another dose! It would have been funny if not for the desperation that was settling in on this moment.

We left her room and exited the building with me pushing her in the wheelchair along the concrete walkway. With friends and family in tow, we circled the grounds, through the trees and plants and ending it near the sculpture I had created. We listened to a male cardinal singing his “pretty, pretty, pretty” chorus, high above us in a tall oak tree. We went by a little pond that had a fountain and watched a fisherman trying to catch a fish and we talked about how she and I needed to do that one day. We looked in awe at a thunderhead off in the distance with the rays of the setting sun and fading days light reflecting off of it, causing the clouds to turn purple and pink. Finally, we watched the fireflies that were illuminating the grounds as the day was slowly closing.

A firefly almost rested on her and I asked, “Can I catch a firefly for you?’ She exclaimed “Yes!” I then reached out with both hands and gently grabbed the one that had to tried to land on her shoulder. I bent over, hands cupped together so as not to squish the little bug, and passed it along to her. She cupped her hands over mine, only to have the little fly crawl out from between our clutched hands. For a moment I felt life fleeting, the hands that would rest, and not be able to catch fire flies in the not too distant future. The little bug rested for a moment on one of her tiny fingers, only to spread its wings and fly away, giving a quick flash of light as if to say in the only way that it could that a journey of light and lift off awaits you too!

She was soon exhausted from our ride and we headed back to her room of balloons, flowers, cards and drawn pictures, and we helped her crawl into her bed, worn out from the short ride. There are two images before me now that are becoming as clear as the art that I create. One of life as it is with the physical and emotional pain of bodies that don’t heal, of life that grows more complicated, of questions unanswered, and of life becoming whatever it is that we make of it.

The other reality is an echo of what is to come, not of pain and suffering, but of something far more peaceful: a place. Not just any place mind you, but a beautiful place, found in the beauty of fireflies and thunderheads, of cardinals singing their romantic songs, where there is no more suffering and no more tears, where the sun bounces its brilliant rays off of the towering white clouds, turning the sky pink and purple, but only now, now, unfading and unending.

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