During the nine to ten months of warm water, I am often out on the White Oak River in my kayak just before sunset. I love the light at that time of day. Sometimes when the fish are not there and the currents are forgiving, I can get a degree of focus that is hard to achieve anywhere else. Out on the water it is easy to forget about politics or some of the pettiness that we often face in life.
However, you cannot live your whole life on the river in a kayak and sometimes it is an interaction with another person that provides you with the exact moment of clarity that you need. Recently lost in thought I was hiking down a street in our subdivision. A neighbor saw me and asked me what was wrong? I guess that I did not have my usual smile on my face. I thought for only a second before saying, "Nothing is wrong, have a nice day."
I said nothing was wrong because just then I had one of those moments of clarity and I saw everything from a different perspective. On one level there was plenty wrong and obviously there was enough out of whack to have robbed me of my smile. Yet in that precise moment I knew that my current challenges were nothing compared to what many are facing and to what I have lived through in the past. I knew it was time to count my blessings, my health, the health of my wife, our children, our grandchildren, the roof over our head, the food in our garden and on our table and even our eleven year old cars that are running well.
Among those blessings, I include the friends I have made from Mike, my buddy in grade school and in Boy Scouts, to dear friends from McCallie and Harvard. Then there are those special people from New Brunswick, both in Tay Creek, Fredericton, and Carleton County and our wonderful friends in Halifax, Nova Scotia who also touched our lives in ways that I appreciate more and more as the years disappear from the calendar. I cannot forget the friends in Columbia, MD, Southwest Virginia and our families with deep roots in North Carolina's Surry and Yadkin Counties. New friends find their into our lives all the time but as we get older, unfortunately, some of the very people who have touched our lives the most disappear but are never forgotten.
During that split second moment of clarity, I also knew that even the things which were trying to drag me down would not in the end impact those things that are truly important. I have chosen a way to live that does not focus on material things but does require me to stand up at times for what is right. I also try to live my life so that the places and people that I touch are better for my presence or involvement. Sometimes it is impossible because there are people that thrive on making the lives of others hard. I cannot help or agree with everyone but that will not stop me from trying to be a good neighbor. Sometimes I have heeded the call to fight for what is right even when others would not, but that is who I am. While that has its own consequences, I have always been able to live with my own successes and failures in those battles because I draw my strength from something far more powerful.
Truly in the end it does not matter how life's little battles play out. Some will be won and more than a few lost. However, my will to continue will always be sustained by the love of my family, friends from over the years, our loving church families and the grace of God. One day all these challenges will only be fading memories lost in the shadows. Other more powerful memories, the births of our children, the moments they made us proud, the smiles of our grandchildren, holding the hand of mother in her last moments, the love from our pets or the soft touch of my wife will I hope consume my consciousness.
I can only hope that when my time comes that I have as wonderful a last moment of clarity as one of our church family did just before she passed away recently. If I have the story correct, this wonderful lady whose daughter was in the room looked up as an attendant at the hospice walked into her room. While the daughter was leaving for the night she said to the attendant, "This is my daughter, she loves me and I know she knows that I love her too." Those were her last words before she died.
We cannot hope for more than that. Knowing that you are loved by your family and that your family loves you is what should sustain you. The rest including all the hurtful words you might have endured are just not that important in the end. Thanks for the moment of clarity Frances.