For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
the saddest are these: "It might have been!'"
--John Greenleaf Whittier
Dum vivimus, vivamus!
[While we live, let us live!]
Neither do men light a candle,
and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick;
and it giveth light unto all that are in the house
'Tis the infirmity of his age: yet he hath ever
but slenderly known himself
--King Lear, Shakespeare [I, i]
Sunday homily: Today.
I recently went to the Mayo Clinic with a friend, who remarked what a dismal experience the clinic was. I did not see it that way.
Sobering, perhaps. Realizing that most people are there because they are unwell but trying to get better, and recognizing that we are all hurtling toward the same end, I was actually uplifted. Of the elderly he said, "But, they're all dying!" "We're all dying," said I.
Tender mercies abound. Frail, frail, the elderly couple at the check in station, he much taller than she, his hand on her neck and shoulder. Well-attired, they are still a handsome couple, but one can imagine him when he was not so tentative. So gently they walk away, he holding under her elbow for her support.
Almost everyone at Mayo except the most blighted manages a smile or a kind word. At the outdoor cafe was overheard numerous phone conversations, all ending with a sincere -- an almost desperate -- "I love you."
Words of encouragement were plentiful. "You're walking better today," even when one could not imagine the walk to be much worse. A towel wrapped around a waist falls, and a worker picks it up and wraps it back around the woman's waist, saying, "We women understand what it is to take care of each other." Such simple grace.
A Mayo visit is sobering in the way that reading the obituaries is. One realizes that a life -- every life -- can be squeezed into two paragraphs: He was a loving (blank), a member of (blank) church or organization; worked (blank); left behind (blank). That's all. There are few grandiose moments, though each one has the potential for small exultations and gratitude.
In college, I declined a job request to be a companion to a resident at the local senior center, but the job fascinated me, nonetheless. The man sought a companion to walk and talk with him for one hour, three days a week. That man may be dead now, and I missed an opportunity to learn another life, and see things through eyes wiser than my own.
What amends have you made today? What pettishness have you avoided? Did you really listen to someone with an open heart? Are you making something beautiful -- discovering your light?
Macbeth's tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow are among the saddest words in English literature. What would happen if, just for today, you lay your burden down?
[Cross-posted at Big Brass Blog]