Tuesday, January 22, 2013

To Be Grateful for Even the Smallest Touch

God willing, I plan to attend a funeral today -- a long-time member of the congregation I served.  I  officiated at the funeral of her husband what must be well over a decade ago, and it just feels right to attend.  It is an odd bond, but present nonetheless -- experiential threads of pastoral exchange and privileged moments woven over the years; dormant now, but still very present I discovered as I read her obituary in the paper. I can walk away, but not leave behind. 

That, I am discovering as I feel myself aging, is one of life's most treasured blessings:  what Frederick Buechner referred to as "a room called Remember," into which is crowded a wondrous population of faces and personalities, family and friends, parishioners and neighbors, transients and colleagues, adversaries and playmates, mentors and teachers; a village of idiosyncrasies, clowns, fools, geniuses, artists, loves and annoyances who, together by their presence in my memory or in my company, continue to fashion me into a person. 

I don't suppose we were particularly close, although we shared an affection and a discipleship that bridged the decades separating us in age.  We greeted one another among the pews.  I visited her when she was ill.  I comforted her, I hope, while she grieved.  Despite the ordinariness of our crossing, I wake up to discover her fingerprints on my life -- a discovery that prompts the notice of all those others alongside.

And so I'm attending her funeral.  At least in part to bear witness to her touch.  And to be grateful for it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Riding a Dead Battery Into the New Year

 It certainly started as an annoyance.  With a few errands in mind for that side of town I had driven over to pick up Lori from work.  Arriving early I switched the ignition to “accessory” so as to continue with the radio news without burning gas.  It would, after all, be only a short wait.

Indeed, a few minutes later the passenger door opened, Lori settled in with a kiss, and I pressed the ignition button.  Instead of the familiar purr of the engine springing to life, we were greeted by a flash of dashboard lights and a flaccid puttering sound from somewhere under the hood.  Repeated attempts elicited nothing but the same impotence.  Late enough and cold enough that we didn't want the hassle, we switched to Lori’s car and left mine in the parking lot for dedicated attention the next morning.

Simple, subsequent remediation confirmed that the battery -- original equipment with almost 4 years, 75,000 miles and who could number the ignitions behind it -- was dead.  Our neighbor’s auto repair shop and $144 later and I was back on the road...

...only then discovering the headache’s sequel.  Despite the morning’s hour, the clock blinked “noon.”  Switching on the radio, the speakers blasted satellite channel 1 -- the preview channel.  Then, of course, it hit me.  All the settings were erased.  The clock is bad enough.  I mess with it so infrequently as to require the manual each time it’s necessary.  But the radio...  What were all those channels, and connected with which preset buttons?  Six AM settings.  Twelve FM.  Eighteen satellite channels -- to tediously locate out of 130 or more on the dial.  My first reaction, I am embarrassed to admit, was neither happy nor appropriately shared in public. 

And then a sudden realization brought a smile.  “This is opportunity,” I thought to myself, “not onerous responsibility.”  There is, after all, no Federal law that says the presets must be faithfully reproduced.  “I can choose any stations I want -- and associate them with any buttons I wish.” 

And so it happened that the "Spa" channel was replaced with "Bluegrass," the "Soul" channel was replaced with symphonic "Pops", the "40's" channel replaced...who knows what, and all of them elicited by a completely fresh order on the buttons. 

It was, in a way, like cleaning house -- passing over previous selections I never subsequently selected; moving lower tier numbers up the list; making brand new choices in the liberating knowledge that I could discard them, too, if future disregard commends it.  Sure, it will take some getting used to, but I like to think I am still capable of learning.

All of a sudden I found myself grateful for the dead battery that had launched me down this New Year’s path of assessment and evaluation, reorganization and experimentation -- all the while sheepishly acknowledging that nothing but inertia had ever stood in my way. 

As I turned off the ignition, my radio renovation, for the time, complete, I walked inside wondering what else in my life could benefit from a dead battery’s initiative toward a stripping and cleansing new beginning.