Stan, a story.


DSC_0120Stan

This story is dedicated to my neighbour Stan, who I didn’t know well, but enough.

In the end one of two things happen, you are either filled up or emptied out. Or maybe a wee bit of both. The culmination of the long race of life, and the finish line finally looming up ahead and you having no choice but to cross over, happens to all of us, or will happen, some day.

Stan was no different. 86 years old and 50 of those years spent in the same yellow bungalow with his wife. Apple trees out back, the old clothes line, the perennial garden lining the frontage clearly visible from the picture window where they sat most days, looking out at the world. I’d walk by with the dog, look up and find them looking back. I’d wave and Stan would always nod, not a wave, but an acknowledgement that went deeper.

His wife had one of those debilitating diseases, the ones that take and take and take until there isn’t much left. He cared for her at home, built a wheel chair ramp from the front path up to the door stoop, and kept his vow to love her in sickness or in health, until death. She died, her body emptied out of most things, including some dignity, and the pretty curve of flesh over bone, and her ability to do the personal things that he did for her. But full of his love, I somehow know that even though I can’t prove it is true. I noticed her absence before I knew for sure she was gone, saw him sitting alone in the window, her empty chair.

If Stan was ever outside his house puttering, he’d come over and chat to me. Just before Christmas one year as we were talking at the end of his driveway, I made an appointment with him, told him we’d be out caroling with our family and friends in a couple of nights time and would he be home? He said, “Yes, yes, you come by. I love to sing.” So we did. We detoured around to his place, me walking ahead and wondering if he’d actually be there. As if he had someplace more important to be than home. He was there. He opened the door, nodded to me, and then he stepped out onto the stoop and as we gathered around and began to sing, he closed his eyes and sang out in a strong and clear tenor voice. He knew all the words by heart. He stayed there and sang another carol with us until I was worried he’d catch his death of cold. “Merry Christmas, Stan,” I said. “Merry Christmas,” he replied. “And, thank you,” he said, as he opened the screen door and went back inside to his solitary life.

I never saw a for sale sign, just noticed subtle changes around the place, including a different vehicle in the driveway. I wondered if Stan had died. One day I was filling up my truck at the Petro Can and there he was, pumping gas into his car. “Hey there,” I said, “how are you?” He looked up at me, took a moment and said, “Well hello, I’ve moved.” “I was wondering about that,” I said, “I haven’t seen you around your place.” “I’ve moved into a Senior’s apartment,” he said, “it’s easier that way. I can get meals if I want them, and I don’t have to worry much about anything else.” “Good seeing you,” I said. “I just turned 86,” he said, “it’s a great life if you don’t weaken.” I smiled. He nodded and went back to pumping gas.

The yellow house was knocked down a few weeks back. A new bigger foundation is in its place. It turns out I know who bought the old place. Another neighbour who knew Stan for years and saw the potential, the beautiful lot, the proximity to the beach. He and his wife tried to live in Stan’s old house for a few months. But it was too much for them, too many quirks. “There’s no insulation in it,” he tells me. “I had to cut a hole in the wall and stuff in an air conditioner last summer, it was that hot.” In the winter they noticed a problem with the plumbing, called Stan up, they knew him well enough to do that, just to ask him if he’d ever noticed anything. “Oh that,” he said, “If it gets below -10 you have to take a kettle of hot water and pour it over the step. Not the top step, but the next one down. And if it gets more than -20, sometimes it takes 2 kettles.” He’d lived like that for over 50 years, making adjustments, doing what needed to be done.

Stan died just before Christmas. Last thing I heard he was having stomach troubles. They found him in his apartment, sitting in his favourite chair, the same one I saw through the picture window in his old house. Stan had a stomach ulcer. He sat down one night and stayed there while he slowly bled to death. I hope he went without pain, but knowing Stan, he would have done something if it was necessary.

There are two ways in the end, either you are emptied out or filled up. Sometimes disease or other tragedy comes and takes everything, sometimes it happens quickly and way before you are ready to let go. But sometimes if you are lucky, the ending happens gradually over many years, your whole body filling up with life. And then perhaps you are almost ready to go, having done the best you can and almost everything you had in mind to do.

by Lesley-Anne Evans

Should you wish to share this story or any other posting here at Buddy Breathing, please do so by asking permission of the author, me. Thank you. And thank you for reading.

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Sorrow


English: Weeping Angel part of mausoleum of ca...

English: Weeping Angel part of mausoleum of cannon Guilain Lucas (d1628) by Nicolas Blasset. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorrow

 

I am sorry

that your little girl won’t run into her father’s arms

that you won’t meet him at the door, feel his warmth

that he did not come back like he said he would

that it ends like this

the prayers unanswered

the horror

the questions

the everything before and after defining moment

that will carry you from now on

and the only hope that still remains

some day may it be enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raging at God


The Grey

The Grey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Note to self: Know that what you are about to write might be misunderstood. Know that this is about intentions, about being honest, about talking about elephants in rooms. Know that when you have finished this blog, you will always wonder if you should have posted it. Write and post it anyway.

Last night I watched a very disturbing movie called “The Grey starring one of my favourite actors Liam Neeson. The language in the movie smacked me around. A bunch of northern Alaskan oil workers made up of ex-cons and blue collared real men really do talk that way. They use the f-bomb like salt… every sentence liberally sprinkled. There were times when I wanted the bombing to stop… my ears hurt.

The Grey was over the top, emotion packed, a thriller of a movie with amazing cinematography and great acting. No spoilers here, hopefully. Yet what struck me most were the underlying spiritual aspects of the story, which came to a head here in this scene where Ottway (Neeson) has just lost another companion.

WARNING, THE FOLLOWING SCENE CONTAINS INTENSE EMOTIONS AND EXTREME LANGUAGE THAT MAY OFFEND:

The reason why this scene gets me, why it is so raw and powerful and punches me in the guts, is because I recognize it. Because I have raged at God. Because I’ve recently heard words very similar to those in the movie from someone I dearly love, and I stayed silent and let them rage on.

I have said, “F*%k it… I’ll do it myself.”  Maybe not in those precise words, but close enough. I’ve railed at God, told him how disappointed, how mad, how frustrated I was with his lack of showing up, doing this, doing that, answering this, working this out, and not understanding me. I’ve thrown tantrums. I’ve thrown stones. I’ve crossed my arms and raised my fists. I’ve grown tired of waiting for him to do what he says is going to do.

What do I expect from God anyway? Do I think that if things don’t go the way I’d like them to, or if there are difficult times, that God is against me? Do I think he doesn’t hear, doesn’t see, doesn’t care?

And if God (the same one who I believe made, knows and loves me) is completely OK with me being completely me, then is my raging-out-of-control-verbal-tirade OK with God as well? Can I be that honest with my God?

I’d like to think that even though my perspective goes off the rails and I’m overwhelmed by emotions/hormones and lack of understanding/self-control, that God is OK with that. I’d like to think that God hears my pleading through my profanity.

I can think of at least one example of a Hebrew guy who God called “his friend” who raged, bargained, begged, cried out in self-pity and isolation and pain. A guy named David (of the Goliath killing kind of David) comes to mind. So if David, why not me, why not you?

Still, there has to be a turning point somewhere, where I stop being angry at God. A point where I am just like a child whose had a face-turning-blue-planked-body temper tantrum, and is worn out in a limp sloppy mess on the floor. When I’m done with all my raging and railing, and my ego/anger/will is spent, there must come a time where I choose to surrender to God. Even if I don’t get it, or don’t get what I want, or don’t ever understand what God’s doing. Even if I can only muster up a speck of faith that says something about God being in charge and not me. Even then…

The Grey teaches me perspective on life and death and how I relate to God in tough places. I will probably never be hunted by wolves, or have to pit my white suburban survival skills against the wild of Alaska. My wild places are closer to home, like in relationship struggles, or in health issues and the crushing challenges faced by those I love. Packs of wolves called depression and loneliness, low self worth, selfishness and jealousy relentlessly hunt me. They chase me down in my marriage and try to tear out my throat. I find myself worn out, cut off, facing eminent danger, and then I rage at God because things aren’t turning out the way I thought they might. It’s true. That’s how I am.

But when the emotional storm passes, I quiet myself down, and allow poetic words like these to wash over my ravaged mind. Ancient words; a reminder of the primary directive and focus of my life, a reminder of my place in the scheme of things. When the raging is over, I go and lay down trembling and wait on God;

16 I heard and my [whole inner self] trembled; my lips quivered at the sound. Rottenness enters into my bones and under me [down to my feet]; I tremble. I will wait quietly for the day of trouble and distress when there shall come up against [my] people him who is about to invade and oppress them.

17 Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, [though] the product of the olive fails and the fields yield no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls,

18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the [victorious] God of my salvation!(A)

19 The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]! 

Habakkuk 3:16-19, Amplified Bible (AMP)

Shivering in the cold and muck. Still, as one character in “The Grey” says, “I am not afraid, I am not afraid.”

Lesley-Anne, SDG