Faith, Stories Told

Separated

I first shared this in 2008. It describes a scene from my childhood, of me walking up the hill my family lived on during a very bad storm. Thanks to the family I mention in the story, I now have a 1972 photograph of that scene in fairer weather. It was taken from that family’s front yard, and shows shows me, the friend I mention in this story, and another neighbor boy walking up the hill. We’re almost in front of the house I lived in. Click the image to see it much larger.

When I was 5 or 6, I was at a neighbor’s house a few doors down when a bad storm blew in. My friend’s mother sent me right home. I made it down the path to the sidewalk when the wind started to blow hard against me pushing me down the hill and away from my house as if a bully was pushing on me with all his might. My hair whipped around and stung my face. I called out, but I could barely hear my voice over the wind. I leaned in, pushed hard with my legs, and made slow progress.

Lancaster72Our house was maybe a hundred feet away and I could see light in the window. I imagined my mother inside ironing or vacuuming, unaware that her son was in trouble. I had never felt so frightened and alone, separated from everybody who loved me and could protect me. As I struggled against the storm wind, for the first time in my life I thought I might die.

The wind broke when I made it to the path to our front door, and I ran all the way up and inside. Mom was standing in the living room listening to a tornado warning bulletin on TV. She had heard the wind howling past the house and had just become concerned about me. I burst into tears and tried to explain what had happened as she collected me into her arms. We learned later that a tornado had briefly touched down nearby.

I can see now that I was not in mortal danger that day. The worst case was probably being knocked down and left to lie on the sidewalk until the storm passed – frightening, but survivable. But as an adult I’ve been in much worse situations, some of which I’ve created and some of which were random chance. I’ve reaped serious earned and unearned consequences from them. Each of us goes through our own version of this. For some of us, those consequences do include mortal danger.

There are a couple ways to come away from the suffering these consequences bring. One is to conclude that if there’s a God, he’s not there for us. The other is to realize that life is often bigger than we can handle, and that we need a power greater than ourselves to help us through it.

God is always a hundred feet away, a light burning in his window, waiting for us to come home to him. Unlike my mother many years ago, he knows exactly what trouble we face. It’s not God’s way to ride in on his white horse or wave his magic wand to make our troubles disappear. He aches over our suffering, but allows it because he wants us to learn that life on Earth is not his primary purpose for us – life with him is. Through that suffering, if we choose to begin looking for God we will find him, and we will begin to experience his love and comfort, and even his rescue.

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Growing up on that hill was all right.
Read about it and see recent photos.

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Personal, Stories Told

On regret and doing your best

I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.
– Maya Angelou

Sugar

Late spring 2008

Sugar was the best dog I ever had. She was smart and gentle and loyal and happy.

I had noticed that she had been lethargic for a few days, but I wrote it off. She was old, after all, and was entitled to be tired.

Then one morning, Sugar’s legs quit working. On her way out the back door she tripped over nothing, fell to her chest, and struggled to get up. I helped her to her feet and watched carefully as she moved slowly out into the yard. As she squatted, her legs wobbled and then gave out. She didn’t even try to get up. I ran out into the yard, scooped my dog up into my arms, and carried her inside.

Sugar never walked again. The vet said it was autoimmune hemolytic anemia and it was probably too late for treatment to work. It doomed poor Sugar. I put her down that afternoon.

After she passed, I finished shooting one of my old cameras and had the film processed. One of the photos was of her, from about a week before she died. Here it is. She looks like hell. I don’t know if you can see it, but it’s plain as day to me. She had death written all over her. She needed to have been seen by a vet. But I didn’t even remotely see it while she was suffering.

Sugar

August 2008

I felt terrible. I had been very busy and distracted, and I didn’t see my dog’s pain. I beat myself up for a while because I hadn’t done my best to care for her.

But I know my best varies. It’s better when I’m well than when I’m sick. It’s better when I’m relaxed than when I’m stressed. It’s better when I’m unhurried than when I’m busy.

I also know that life is a learning exercise. Sugar taught me something about what a suffering dog looks and acts like.

Now I know better. For my 16-year-old dog, Gracie, I will do better.

This one is for my friend Andy, who is suffering a similar loss.

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I wrote a eulogy for Sugar
after she died. Read it here.

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Faith, Stories Told

Separated

When I was 5 or 6, I was at a neighbor’s house a few doors down when a bad storm blew in. My friend’s mother sent me right home. I made it down the path to the sidewalk when the wind started to blow hard against me pushing me down the hill and away from my house as if a bully was pushing on me with all his might. My hair whipping around and stinging my face, I called out, but I could barely hear my voice over the wind. I leaned in, pushed hard with my legs, and made slow progress.

Orange roadside flowerOur house was maybe a hundred feet away and I could see light in the window. I imagined my mother inside ironing or vacuuming, unaware that her son was in trouble. I had never felt so frightened and alone, separated from everybody who loved me and could protect me. As I struggled against the storm wind, for the first time in my life I thought I might die.

The wind broke when I made it to the front path, and I ran all the way up to and through the door. When I came in, Mom was standing in the living room listening to a tornado warning bulletin on TV. She had heard the wind howling past the house and had just become concerned about me. I burst into tears and tried to explain what had happened as she collected me into her arms. We learned later that a tornado had briefly touched down nearby.

Roadside chicory flowerI can see now that I was not in mortal danger that day. The worst case was probably being knocked down and left to lie on the sidewalk until the storm passed – frightening, but survivable. But as an adult I’ve been in much worse situations, some of which I’ve created and some of which were random chance. I’ve reaped serious earned and unearned consequences from them. Each of us goes through our own version of this. For some of us, those consequences do include mortal danger.

There are a couple ways to come away from the suffering these consequences bring. One is to conclude that if there’s a God, he’s not there for us. The other is to realize that life is often bigger than we can handle, and that we need a power greater than ourselves to help us through it.

God is always a hundred feet away, a light burning in his window, waiting for us to come home to him. Unlike my mother many years ago, he knows exactly what trouble we face. It’s not God’s way to ride in on his white horse or wave his magic wand to make our troubles disappear. He aches over our suffering, but allows it because he wants us to learn that life on Earth is not his primary purpose for us – life with him is. Through that suffering, if we choose to begin looking for God we will find him, and we will begin to experience his love, comfort, and even his rescue.

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