And They Shed Blessings

It's so simple really, that I could sum it up like this: Some guys came over yesterday and helped move a shed into my yard.

It was gorgeous while they were there; cloudless blue sky on a warm end of October day, with a blustery wind that sent leaves swirling like golden confetti. I stood on my little porch and watched Larry, my park manager, manuver the bobcat holding up part of the shed, while the guys guided it as it slid over beams of wood and helped it travel to the back of my yard. The older men -- my brother Bill, and Noble, were the most effective volunteers. Younger men may have raw strength, but not the seasoned skills of organization, problem-solving and leadership that gets a team motivated and working together. There's a lot to be said for experience and the wisdom that comes with age.

As I stood on my elevated perch on the porch, I watched these men -- brother, teenage son, nephew, church brother, friends -- and it brought me to tears. I'm sure the guys wouldn't have understood if they'd caught me crying right then. But here were these people all gathered just to help me out with something I couldn't have done on my own. Friendship, caring, community of others -- how precious these have all become to me. A bit of wisdom myself as I grow older, and a heart that is filled with love and appreciation of the beauty of something that may look so simple to someone else. "Love your neighbor" Christ said, and these men, sweating and straining, put it into action for me. It was a holy moment. I have opened myself up to others, increased my connection with other human beings, and embraced a community in a church that I love. My life, which sometimes feels like a lonely battle, has been so enriched.

Blessed too by the craggy, eccentric neighbor who moved and gave me his shed, and said gruffly with a catch in his throat, "Yeah, I've got to move up north to find neighbors as good as you," and then quickly walked away. There is such immense power in truly loving your neighbor.


A Fine & Broken Man

I talked to Rick tonight. It's been months since we've talked. Two years since we've seen each other. I don't know if he knows it's been two years. The shock therapy wiped out his memory of the last ten years, though I know that's very rare. But with Rick, not surprising.

He has flashes of me now, though, he tells me. Scattered memories, as though I am petals of a flower that occasionally float down into his brain. How strange it is to have worked together so long and hard, and been so intimately connected, and now -- I am just petals of memories.

"You know," I said to him once not that long ago, when I was feeling humorous about the shock therapy and the loss of his ten years of memories, "You know, I could tell you that I was the most amazing lover you ever had, and you'd just have to take my word for it." And he laughed, as I knew he would, but whether he remembers I was once his lover, I have no idea. Part of me doesn't really want to hear the truth about that.

This man. Oh, this man who has been so broken by life, who has been institutionalized, who has suffered abuse and extreme depression and physical pain and surgery and now MS the doctors think. This man who nursed his mother for years while she spiraled down into her own narrow world of Alzheimers -- a world that scared me sometimes when I visited and she would pop out of her bedroom for the seventh time in three minutes asking who I was and why I was there. This man who diapered his mother, and his grandson, and lost his sanity at times, this man is still one of the finest men I've ever known.

Rick rails against the church, and beats up on God everyday. He calls him the Coach. And yet he never gives up talking to God. As much as the church hurt him, he never gives up believing that the Coach is there, even as he yells at him for letting him suffer so. And as much as he yells at him, I know he loves him. I know just calling God Coach is probably the highest honor Rick would give anyone.

And Rick. Dammit Rick. I wish you hadn't had the life you did. I wish that your body wasn't failing you, and your mind didn't shut itself off because it couldn't handle any more pain and abuse. I wish others knew what I knew -- that deep inside there is a man of such rare quality, a man with sterling character and the highest morals. I wish, my dear Rick, that you had had a normal life and not one lived in sacrifice, not one you had to fight so hard through that your brain shut off sometimes, and took long vacations away from us all.

Rick and I should have had a quiet and deep romance, a small house in the country, babies together, and a dog you had to step over on your way out the door. But instead God gave me a friend who said tonight, "You know if you ever need me, anytime, that I'll be there," in the midst of his pain, and I know he'd have to be dying to go back on his word. And God still gives him petals of me, little pieces that occasionally break through and hopefully land softly on a life that has been too brittle and hard.