21 Jun Living Your Life…NOW
I recently became aware of two “clubs” that I didn’t know existed. Neither of these clubs is one that people join by choice. Instead, we are thrust in to them through no fault of our own. Membership in these clubs is life-changing. We are never the same people after our initiation as we were prior to it.
I am now a card-carrying member of the R.E.D. Friday club, though a week ago I was totally oblivious that the R.E.D. Friday club was a “thing.” R.E.D is the acronym for “Remember Everyone Deployed,” and R.E.D. Friday was created to remind people of our troops overseas and to spread the message of how important it is that we keep them in our thoughts and prayers, that they are not forgotten. R.E.D. Friday is observed by, you guessed it, wearing red on Fridays, and I am now in possession of two R.E.D. t-shirts that will be my Friday uniform for the foreseeable future.
My family’s loved one left the States for Afghanistan a week ago. A Fairfax County firefighter by day, Arthur’s job in the National Guard is as a medic. His Guard unit was called up for a nine-month deployment in the Middle East where he will be flying in helicopters to retrieve and care for wounded soldiers as close to the fighting hot spots as possible. For him, he is living out a calling to serve his fellow soldiers and finally using all the training he has received over the past two years. For his friends and family left behind, we are, of course, concerned for his safety. Nine months seems like a long time, but it will be filled with care packages assembled and sent, texts and emails eagerly awaited, lots of prayers spoken, breathed, and felt, and R.E.D. Fridays.
The other club is one in which I do not yet have membership, but lately I have seen it in action from a front row seat. This club might better be called “The Sisterhood of Motherless Daughters.” The death of a parent is a life-altering event, no matter the age or gender of parent and child, or the circumstances. But, from what I have observed recently, when a daughter loses a mother, there is something particularly profound that occurs. No matter how many years it has been, memories are as fresh as if Mom left us yesterday. Tears are surprisingly close to the surface, if the subject somehow arises. Images and memories are triggered and stories come pouring out with even the teeniest of openings.
All of this has served as a pointed reminder to me of the influence we have in one another’s lives. Parents usually have the greatest influence, but the truth is that we are all integrally connected to one another and our words and actions, our attitudes and values, our habits and perspectives impact others, for good and for ill.
In part because I worked as a hospice chaplain for a couple of years a decade ago, I have officiated at more funerals and memorial services than I can count. One lesson I have experienced in spades is that those who are dying have much to teach us about how to live. People will not stand up at your funeral and laud you because of the plaques on your wall or how many hours you stayed at the office. They will stand up and honor you for your kindnesses, your generosity, your sense of humor, and your loyalty. Your friends and family will not stand over your coffin or urn and talk about how impressive your 401K was. They will, however, tell stories about how well you loved others, how faithfully you took care of your family or served your neighbors. They will remember your quirks, especially if you are able to laugh at them yourself.
If your loved ones are going to have anything worthwhile to remember, you have to live those memories now. You can’t wait to be kind or thoughtful or to go out of your way to help someone. You can’t wait until you can “afford it” to be hospitable and share with others. The life you are living now, today, is the life that will be remembered about you. Are you comfortable with the epithet that would be written for you today? If not, the only time to change it is right now. The good news is that kindness, compassion and joy are freely given to us, and they are ours to freely share. God is really awesome like that.
Yours for the Kingdom,