Until the Chirping of the Crickets Goes Silent

8/25/17


While I was putting our life into cardboard boxes for the second time this summer, while the big kids were spending a week with their grandparents at their great-grandparents’ farm, while the baby became a toddler before my eyes in the Texas sun, my husband was in New Mexico at a symposium kicking off his first of three (mostly online) years in The Living School, through the Center for Action and Contemplation.

You might say the timing was imperfect, but he had signed up for this half a year ago and there was no way I was letting him back out now. And besides, it ended up being fine- if you consider it fine that he got home from the airport with barely enough time to stretch his legs before hopping in the driver’s seat of a fully loaded Penske truck and driving halfway across the country to start work the next day. It’s fine.

But we did it- we’re here in Iowa again, all five of us, staying at a little country rectory until we close on our house at the end of the month. On the first night, after moving in suitcases and unfolding cots, after filling tiny bellies with pizza and after tucking them in with desperate prayers that we haven’t screwed them up for life, Eric and I finally, finally sat down on the couch together. And he told me something that Father Richard Rohr said at their closing session, something I’ve been thinking about ever since.

“All of life is about learning how to die.”

It all seems so critically important, the details of this life and the living of it. But really, we’re all walking toward death; we’re all walking toward a moment of sheer Nothingness and then the great Unknown to come. Death is about forgiveness- both finally offering it and finally receiving it. It’s about making peace with disappointment and futility. It’s about realizing the incredible moments for what they were, and how extravagantly loved by Someone you were to be given them at all. Death is about finally letting go: Of expectations, of control, even of hopes. Death is about submitting to the smallness of us against the bigness of the Eternal. A dignified death is about belief.

All of life is about learning how to die.

I thought I knew something of dying, of the cross: Namely, when I was bowled over by the reality of a special needs motherhood I had pictured only in romantic dreams. And it was death to one layer of myself, make no mistake- but my error was in thinking the dying was done, when really it had only just begun. For I’m still young on this earth, and every trip around the sun is one more lesson in letting go.

I’m learning new things about how to die here in the middle of a nondescript Iowa cornfield, here where the fog coats the horizon in mystery with the morning and pink clouds whisper goodnight at dusk. Crickets chirp both outside and inside the house, and the reminder of their companionship is a comfort. We are all in this together, creatures great and small, our lives a lesson in relinquishment.

Our days are simple and peaceful here at the rectory- joyful, even, as I soak up these final tastes of summer with the boys before schedules become more full and commitments more demanding. I’ve shed a few tears and I ache to be in a permanent home, but mostly I’m really and truly happy- which unnerves me a bit, aware as I am of my tendency to numb any difficult emotion. But it makes sense that a sympathetic God would invite me on a slow journey of self-examination rather than put a pregnant mother of three through a grueling emotional exploration.

There is time for me to delve the depths, I think. There is time yet to die.

Today I will walk through corn stalks and help scabby-kneed boys climb trees, learning to live and learning to die and taking it all one day at a time, until the chirping of the crickets goes silent.

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Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)

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