I’ve noticed a lot of stuff seems to happen when I’m not ready. I tend to be a person that is all the time thinking of all the possible scenarios that might happen with all the situations that occur in all the different realms of existence, and then something happens for which I’m not really ready.
I wasn’t ready for Aretha Franklin’s passing. I just wasn’t. I grew up in a primarily if not only Anglo/Caucasian township, community, county, region, not quite state, but massive diversity didn’t particularly exist west of Salina – pockets, yes, massively, no. But there was Aretha. Until I heard Aretha, I’d never heard true gospel music. Until I heard Aretha, I didn’t truly understand the power of a woman’s voice. Until I heard Aretha, I’m not certain I understood that women could speak and sing the truth to power. Until I heard Aretha, I didn’t know you could have a messy life and still have your gifts be used by a generously compassionate and grace-full God. Until I heard Aretha, well, R-E-S-P-E-C-T may not have been a deeply imbedded expectation of how women as well as men, persons of all skin tones and facial features, persons of every age, shape, and intellect, deserve to be treated. I’m not ready for her voice not to be a part of the fabric of our reality as definitive of who we are as a people. Yes, I can and have been and will continue to listen to her voice on recordings. I will treasure the times I watched her perform in concerts, at galas, and on award shows and at the Kennedy Center Honors. Never in person, but it touched me nonetheless. It was her voice we played on a then cassette recorder when my friend Judy was in the ICU and struggling on a ventilator to heal from an infection. She would come out of that crisis without remembering anything except that, somehow, she heard Aretha’s voice in the midst of the fog.
I wasn’t ready for my friend Robyn’s dad to pass. Her dad is an old farmer like my dad. The farm where she grew up is about an hour north of the farm where I grew up – she on the Nebraska side, me on the Kansas side. She still has a sister living out near her folks; so do I. She lives in the “big city” 5-6 hours away (depending on who’s driving) from that good black dirt that still produces wheat and corn and milo and soybeans, just like I do. I didn’t know her dad well, but I knew him enough to know that he didn’t know a stranger and could have a conversation with anyone, like my dad. And… he sorta laughed at my jokes and silliness the couple of times I was around him like my dad does a little bit. And I wasn’t ready to feel the way good friends feel the sadness that Robyn and her husband and sister and mom felt at the service, where we worshipped and grieved and laughed a little and cried and where friends Tammy and Darryl and I held hands when the pastor said the prayers reminding us that we have a wonderful God of all eternity and that the connection of family and friends is what makes life worth living.
Maybe I’m not quite ready for the summer to be ending. I love fall – from the feel in the air to the colors in the sky to the pumpkins on the porches to the marching bands echoing from the nearby high school when I walk Buddy to the plethora of leaves that will need to be raked, even from the tree I trimmed myself – let’s just say the bruises are gone but the embarrassment remains. And even with all that, I’m not sure I’m ready for summer to be ending. I’m always going to get so much done in the summer. I’m going to wash my windows and clean out my garage and sharpen my mower blades and dust my shutters and change the batteries in my smoke detectors before they screech in the middle of the night and donate clothes I don’t wear to the Center and get my oil changed and eat better and include some fruits and vegetables in my chips and guac diet and go swimming and biking and go to Colorado and a Royals game and the T-Bones and the Nelson and relax and slow down and play a little piano and read for enjoyment. Some of that I did, much of it I did not, and I’m not ready for the opportunities to check all of that off my list to be ending. And no, I cannot wash windows in the fall, it’s just clearly not the right season. *snort*
I wonder if maybe the key to all this is lessening the need to convince myself I’m going to be ready for everything that occurs and trusting that what does occur my faith will help me be ready to face. And that facing what occurs has less to do with preventing or critiquing sorrow or frustration or anger or numbness or gratitude or most likely a mix; and has more to do with the reality of a God who abides and walks and communicates with us with and through all of the occurrences and the attending feelings and thoughts and actions and behaviors and new, if not always sought-after or wanted, understandings and wisdom.
And so that gospel voice (I know she’s more widely known for her secular music, but to me she will always be the heart of gospel music) is silenced on this earth. And that old and oh so loved farmer dad of my friend Robyn no longer has a presence here. And the 2018 version of summer is ending. All of which have occurred without me really being ready. Still, here I am – able to listen to old and new voices, able to check on friends whose parents have gone before as well as my own, able to say out loud that it’s time to plan for Thanksgiving and Advent and Christmas. Most particularly able to affirm more strongly than yesterday and not as strongly as tomorrow that we have an amazing and wonderfully unlimited God whose timing is unfathomable and sacred and in whom I trust the reality of sadness AND joy. May it be so for us when we’re ready and when, in fact, we’re not.