Tag Archives: love

Remembrance

It started on Mother’s Day this year. It is always a time to miss Mom, of course, but amplified now with the seventh anniversary of her death approaching. Memorial Day only added to the emotion of the season. Always in the slow march of time there are more memories gathered of those once here who now have gone ahead, and such is the nature of mortality.

My hair is showing the split between the snow white of Mother’s side of the family and Dad’s dark coloration. According to the Editress, hair color is a personal choice, though her genetics have her locks darker now than when we met. It is difficult to keep track of time when your woman ages like one of Tolkien’s elves; I am reminded, once I’m back in front a mirror, though, that the days are passing. And I keep my hair as it is so I remember.

I’ve written here about my father, but not mentioned Mom. I assume it is because the emotions involved have kept me from doing so, in addition to being someone who values his privacy in the age of social media. What I can tell you is this: my mother did not have an easy life.

Imagine yourself in the snow-swept flatlands of the Dakotas in the 1930s. Your eighth-grade education has ended, and your own mother—my grandmother—makes the decision to walk out on four daughters and four even younger sons, leaving them with their father. Grandmother was a woman whose idea of child-rearing involved making her children sit on a pew in the entryway of their home for most of Sunday, so as not to disturb the cleanliness of a house just put in order for the Sabbath, among other stories best kept in the family.

I have encountered in the course of my life souls who gave me hope for their disposition. Suffice it to say Grandma was not one of them. Mother, regardless, kept the obligations of a child to her parent to the demonically haunted end of that woman’s life.

At sixteen, Mom left home. It was wartime, and there was work to be had in the national effort, first in Chicago and afterward in Washington, D.C. I have the ring my father took to war, engraved inside the band with a reminder that Mother was at home, waiting. She remained a virgin when they married four years later.

Dad lived until she was forty-eight. I remember forty-eight. You are neither young nor old in the years I thought then would count as my best. You are widowed. Two daughters, at times estranged and at needs reconciled, are on their own. You are raising a son who arrived late to the Greatest Generation and a niece adopted after the death of your youngest sister. Times are as difficult as you can imagine, and you cast about for connection … for a place where life can go on. I don’t remember Mother being big on movie-going, but she could quote Scarlett O’Hara: “Tomorrow is another day.”

What strength it is, I realize now, to keep going. To the limits of your strength and sanity, only to make it to another dawn where you may try again. People going through so much survive on the strength of self-preservation. There’s nothing extra for nurturing as in the luxury of better times. Pain is given and received in that place, and everyone is tested in their limits. Some of those are respected by circumstances … at other times life doesn’t care at all how difficult it is. You count victory in each sunrise.

Mother settled into another life eventually, with another soul whose memory gives me less hope than I would care to contemplate. A life followed—marginally better than her start—though through it all she found enough hope in her Catholic faith to see her win.

Mother’s life gave me more hope than I could have imagined through all our dark and painful years together. We reconciled with perhaps a decade left. Mother saw me publish my first novel and tried to read it, though her education left her unable to finish. She had the impression that Jon Anthony was a good boy, trying to better himself, and was proud of my debut title regardless. Her signed paperback was stolen by relatives from Chicago and never returned, and you may look for it on the used book market today. KMA, people.

As the saying goes, it’s not how you start, but where you finish. Mother finished in a third-rate nursing home five miles from where she was born. The Editress and I saw her there, to recover from a recent surgery in her last good days. She had her stroke about the time we walked in our own door after returning to the Perimeter in Texas.

Mother endured her last difficult days as she had all those prior in life, being too strong a woman to die quickly. She knew I had returned from Texas, and was glad, and aside from a single squeeze on my hand a couple days later, it was the last of our interaction. She managed the Lord’s Prayer with a hospice worker a short time later, ready, without a doubt in faith, to move on to the bright and better days awaiting a Christian soul. Now we miss her.

Understand this, young people: life is going to hurt. Pain is on the horizon as part and parcel of the landscape. Those difficult emotions have things to teach you concerning yourself and your place in the natural order. There is a Way Things Are, to which we’re subject and unable to escape in more convenient consensus or comforting delusional thinking. Your obligations to He who produced you are some of those Things.

Listen and learn from the perspective of valid faith gathered beforehand. Sooner is better, believe me, so you’ll end strong, like many have before you. Absent a perspective embracing clarity and appreciating your place in what God is doing, your soul doesn’t have a chance. I’ve seen it go both ways.

Sometime after Mother’s funeral I was in the Big Red Chair G. Gordon Kitty and I often shared. He was gone ahead as well, and I was dreaming. Mother was behind me, with her arms around my shoulders, younger than I had known her in life. I asked her if she still loved me. She answered, “I love you so much.” So hope goes that one day my hair will no longer be gray, that pain will be only a memory of lessons learned, and in the fruition of our Creator’s long work of life, things will be just as He meant for us.

If so blessed, don’t wait for the onset of poignant memories. Appreciate your loved ones now. Start from the top, where love unimagined in its intensity awaits with He who set you on this path of days, and work your way down in faith to the remainder of those who may be waiting. You and they have things to do … and we are all in this together.

Choose to love, -DA

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Love, baby, that’s where it’s at

Inspiration can be found in the oddest places … including a snippet from the lyrics of the B-52s’ Love Shack. Love, celebrated in this season on St. Valentine’s Day, is an essential emotion and one that marks the boundary between life and death in a multiplicity of ways.

Love is a victory of clarity. To adopt it from the tripartite choice we have in aligning our souls (which is the love, hate or indifference of my character Jon Anthony’s soliloquy in The Anvil of the Craftsman) is a choice, and one that is most telling.

Love, which we define as the appreciation for the beauty in and the hope for the abundance of life, should be the singular pursuit of the living. To adopt an orientation toward hate, or to simply not care one way or the other, are in either case the choice of a little death.

You can see a person’s life in their eyes. It dances in the light that gleams there when they are alive inside. You can see darkness just as well, in the deep and dark pools of nothingness of those who are lost.

Love—the appreciation of the beauty in and the wish and hope for the abundance of life—is a connection to the prime motivation of the Craftsman in creating those who would choose to willingly return the sentiment. It gives from within itself the opportunity for adoption, and the same chance to pass itself on in a continual cycle of love and life.

The seed of love is stronger than the fire of hate or the drought of indifference, in that it is the only one of the three able to sustain itself. Hate may spread death for a time, but the worst conflagration eventually runs out of fuel for its flames. In the ashes of what it leaves behind, the seeds of life that outlast any circumstance can begin again. Love and life are reflections of the motivation and labor of an eternal God, and so—unlike the works of His enemy in hate and death—they will never fail utterly.

Somewhere in the cascade of pink ribbons and chocolate and card stock that seems to have taken over the commemoration of St. Valentine’s legacy, I hope that you have time to reflect and make your foundationary choice if it has never yet occurred to you. You are alive, and are therefore meant to live. Once you understand, it is only a single step backward into the arms of your Creator.

Choose to Love, -DA

The Curious Case of Morihei Ueshiba

The nature of faith is seeped with intrigue. What Paul called “the evidence of things unseen” is a motivator in every life, and our success or failure hinges on the ability to extend the primary premise of what we believe. The deceived may believe passionately in any number of things that have no foundation in any actuality, and the longer they hold to a false premise, the farther they have to fall, as seen in the Germany of the 1930s and 40s.

As an intellectually convicted Christian, I believe that four logically derived evidential pillars defined personally some years ago support my faith. That the God of Abraham exists, that Jesus was actual and divine rather than imaginary or delusional, that His mission was necessary, and that I personally needed to do something about it. ‘Doing something about it’ for me means many things. One of them is to continuing to extend from the premise, to test what I believe to be real against the framework of other truths. So, ultimately, the nature of faith itself must be examined and understood.

Faith, it seems, is what prevents despair in those who choose awareness in a fallen world. It is the antithesis of cynicism in the same way that life opposes death, and it is the characteristic of those who endure instead of perish. Life is, after all, the work of the Craftsman, the same as the faith that leads us home. Salvation by grace, through faith, is the foundation of Christianity in the studied opinion of Paul, himself an accomplished student of Judaism under Gamaliel. Ergo, belief in things “actual” will lead to life instead of death.

It is a common—and I tend to use that term rather derisively—position that people outside of mainstream Christianity are irretrievably lost, though many of them irretrievably are. I have pulled at some of those trying to get them to the shore, and watched them swim away into the sea instead, often enough to accept salvation as something that God accomplishes far better than we can. But there is life to be found wherever God plants faith in the things that are real, and sometimes it blossoms elsewhere of its own accord.

Morihei Ueshiba is one such case, a life originally studied in the context of his founding of the martial art of Aikido. His legacy includes acknowledgment by some as “the best priest in Japan,” due to the spiritual content of his outlook. Ueshiba sensei experienced several personal revelations that convinced him of the existence and motivation of a Creator as a worker in life, founded in love, and was able to channel his understanding of things that are real into an incredible legacy of philosophy and technique.

As happens with every man, O-Sensei came to his inevitable doorway. It came in the form of liver cancer in 1969, and in evidence of his faith he declined surgical treatment. He defied despair, rising from his bed in seeming immunity to the pain of the disease to instruct a nearby gathering of young people practicing martial arts. Some time later, the man passed though a death from cancer with a dignity and serenity that amazed its observers and spoke very well of his spiritual condition.

So, I think that Ueshiba found his way home, through the path of what I have come to call the Christ Concept, and suspect that it is the innate ability of every human being. No matter their exposure to conventional Christian doctrine, for those that pay attention the work of life is a beautiful thing, and the appreciation of its beauty and fragility foster love: the wish and hope for life in abundance. Connecting backward to the Craftsman as the Source is as natural as the sunrise. A small voice arises then, whispering that we are less than what produced us, and assuring that He can balance the equation between what we are and what we should have been, as a gift, free for the asking.

We are all living the time given, riding the rails that brought us out of the motivation of God in creating those who can choose to love Him in return. You may move to a car farther back in the train. You may even run backwards atop the roof looking for a caboose, but the station is approaching, and the whistle will sound eventually. Morihei Ueshiba did not go gentle into that good night, he went singing, and evidence that he truly understood makes me glad.

Choose to Love, -DA