Kitty Nani furtively surveys the breakfast table from her nearby perch. She has often enjoyed the fruits of her patience with a delightful repast of milk and cornflakes while papa gets toast or water from the kitchen. Today she sniffs Frosted Flakes – but I have no other needs and this meal will serve only me as I type lines. A feathered flurry of sparrows attacks the birdfeeder on the deck, a pecking order quickly established and then the sharing. Spillage becomes the lure for a customary squirrel and chipmunk and their cheeks quickly stuff with next spring’s weird, soon to be array of strange growths – and perhaps a sprouting cornstalk or two – spotting along the tree line. The richly furred hoarders use deeply ingrained instinct that apparently does not include good memory, but they somehow survive the snows and blows and cold. In this early morning, fresh mown grass air breathed through the screen ever so softly touches my cheeks. The patio swing slightly moves as if my late parents enjoy the sunrise and smile at the impending onset of fall. Lilly’s and Harper’s swings join on cue as does the decorative, hammocked owl hanging near the pines. This silent symphony and chorused chirrups and squaws, scratching’s and scurries brings life to the day.
A bit of sadness generates an ached backbeat as thoughts of recent loss offer a bass line deeper in my mind’s eye. I determined to handle my brother’s death in a “new” way as his decision to stop various life supports created a pretty definitive end. I thought, as the uncle who was nearly the same age as his oldest sons, I should exemplify the joyful side of his passing. You know, the doorway that opens to God’s mansions and the blessings of His eternal peace. In one of his better moments a few days before his death on Father’s Day, he and his son-in-law watched a Brewers’ game on TV. A bonehead decision denied an inning-ending, rally-killing double play. In completely lucid thought despite his Alzheimer’s, Neil pointed out the correct way the play should have occurred and included a typical-of-him series of adjectives to describe the “professional, over-paid ballplayers” of today. And then, thinking he was watching this game in the park outside the living room window, he proceeded to head outdoors to “tell the manager just what he thought.” I used that as my rally against the tears after the 11PM phone call, in the days ‘til his wake, through the funeral service, and on to the cemetery. The final song of the eulogy, The Old Rugged Cross, challenged most of all. Brother Rick was the soloist and his nearly whispered, cracking voice in the opening stanza fell heavily on my heart. To God’s glory, and in a one by one rise of harmony, first from his family and then slowly from all attending, the words and their message crescendo-ed into the high beams of the ceiling. That swell into one voice in love of Christ, in recognition of the great grace of God….no words come to simile or metaphor that incredible moment. At the cemetery, each of Neil’s children used my shoulder, listened to soft words breathed through their tears, as the fresh mown grass air trailed away with each winded swirl across the Arlington Prairie.
Pastor’s words last Sunday slide around in these hollows of thoughts. Perhaps I should have cried, perhaps I should have reached out instead of in. I did reach up, from a bended knee, and in that found great solace. But for now, in this morning dawn of life, I sit in my usual alone, cheeks puffed with Frosted Flakes for no future use other than a swallow, and smile at Nani. Her full name is Nani Ohana, “beautiful family” in Hawaiian. She curiously tilts her head, softly purrrrs “OK, not this time” and curls into her rest. She looks back one more time, perhaps curious about the tears slipping down across the dimple of my smile. God is so very good, all the time.