And The Night Comes

What is it about the stillness of the night?

You should be sleeping but in the quiet, your mind is replaying the events of the day, the things you should’ve said and done, or what you need to do tomorrow. There’s not a sound in the space around you but in your mind it’s a non stop race of thoughts.

I spent today catching up with a good friend over lunch, helping another with some car issues, and hanging out with my daughter while watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. There were laughs and hugs. It was a good day and yet tonight I’m lying in bed trying to sleep and just can’t seem to get my mind to relax.

I’m thinking about friends dealing with illness or addiction. Others grieving the passing of loved ones. The struggles some families are going through with their kids. Couples in conflict. Souls feeling rejected and forgotten. The misused, mistreated, and mistaken.

My life has been pretty good lately. Actually very good and I’m thankful for that. But this world we live in is still full of problems and as I see others going through tough times, I’m reminded of the struggles and challenges that have come my way over the years. Some easier to live through than others but all changing me from who I was to who I now am.

Next week I’ll turn 59. Just another number. Another step in the marching of time. My life, just as most everyone I imagine, has been a cycle of ups and downs. Good times and bad. Things expected and some not. But they all have led me to where I am now.

And tonight, as the night comes, in the midst of my sleepless thoughts, I’m asking God to not quiet my mind but to show me, to use me, to somehow help those that I can. To be brave. To be true. To be compassionate. To be a friend.

A common saying among the followers of Christ is ‘to show others the love of God in all that we say and do’. I haven’t been very consistent with that. I’m human and my humanness often overpowers my faithfulness. But I’m working on it and as a work in process, I’m grateful that regardless of the mistakes I’ve made I’m still given opportunities to do what is right and be who I’m called to be.

So tonight until sleep does come, my prayer for myself, for all of us, is that we find hope and peace right where we are. That we are thankful for all that has been and that when the morning comes, we’ll be ready to bring that hope and peace into the lives of those that we hold in our thoughts. In all that we say and do.

See you down the road….

Dog Tales – Go West Young Man

While walking the Doodle this morning, I was thinking about a trip I have coming up. Just a week away, I fly to Chicago, board Amtrak and head west to Glacier, Montana, and then onto Portland, Oregon.

Now when I say I was thinking about my trip I mean I was mentally reviewing my trip spreadsheet row by row to see if I had left anything out of my plan. I do a spreadsheet for every trip to layout the schedule and control costs. I’m just wired that way and I suspect a few of you are too. I like to plan spontaneity. 🙂

This will be my first train trip since I was four years old and I’m just as excited about this one as I was back then.

I’ve always enjoyed trains. My dad had an O gauge train set and I’ve owned a few others over the years. They were all fun to setup and play with but mostly I enjoyed daydreaming about traveling cross country on a train. So the trip next week is hopefully the first long train ride of many for me.

When I was a kid, I loved the TV show ‘Wild, Wild West’. James West and Artimus Gordon were the first two secret service agents in the late 1800’s and they traveled and lived on a train. Awesome!

Jim’s courage and Artie’s cleverness were quite the combination. They were able to serve their country, kick the butt of various villains, and meet a lot of very pretty women. Still sounds like a good gig to me!

I don’t plan to be vanquishing any villains this train trip but I am excited to step out of my comfort zone and take a trip of this type on my own. I imagine as I’m sitting in my seat, watching the vastness and beauty of our nation roll by, I’ll replay some of those old Wild, Wild West episodes in my mind.

Maybe I’ll come up with some gadget or disguise like Artie or climb out the train window and run across the top of the cars like Jim. Or most likely, I’ll just enjoy the ride and talk with a few newly made friends. And if one or two of those new friends are pretty women that will be ok too. 😎

On this trip I plan to start writing about the life journey of other folks I’ve met over the years. We’re all travelers on this road of life. Some times we share the road, or track, and sometimes we take different routes but we all have experiences that make us who we are and who we are to become. And in sharing those experiences we will usually discover that we all have more in common than we thought.

So my friends both now and soon to meet, if I give you a call, drop you an email, or tap you on the shoulder over the weeks ahead, here’s hoping that you’ll share a bit of your life journey with me in order to share with others. Thanks in advance my friends!

See you down there road, ah, or maybe the track….

How Sweet It Is

I woke up this morning with James Taylor.

Singing in my mind that is. I’ve always enjoyed his music and this morning I could hear his song “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You”. My foot started tapping which apparently annoyed Izzy the Doodle enough that she jumped off the bed. She must not be a fan of the original JT.

Here are a bit of the lyrics:

‘I close my eyes at night wondering where would I be without you in my life.
Everything I did was just a bore, everywhere I went it seems I’d been there before.
But you brighten up for me all of my days with a love so sweet in so many ways,
I want to stop and thank you baby, I just want to stop and thank you baby.
How sweet it is to be loved by you, feels so fine. How sweet it is to be loved by you.’

This is one of a number of songs throughout my life that has always picked me up. I can’t help but to start singing along and let the song put a smile on my face. Someday, if you’re lucky, you’ll pull up beside me at a stop light while this song is playing. I expect you to sing along with me so don’t be shy. Put the windows down and join me in making a joyful noise!

Do you have a song that picks you up? Why does it? Perhaps when you first heard it, it really connected with you. Or perhaps you heard it during an emotional time in your life and it’s been your goto song ever since. Or maybe it’s a family favorite or a song you and your childhood friends have great memories around.

Songs are memories. And tied to them are emotions. Many if not most songs have emotions as part of their title or in their lyrics. Songs such as:

“Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake (the other JT)
“Happy” by Pharrell

“Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night
“Yesterday” by The Beatles
“I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan
“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams

And thousands more across all genres of music. No matter your favorite artist or style of music, I’m sure there are certain songs that will forever open your mind and emotions to another place. Take you back to a time when you experienced something that made an impact on your life. A life-changing moment.

James Taylor’s version of “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You” has now made a new emotional connection with me. In addition to being that happy little jingle that always made me sing, it has also become an anthem since losing my wife Barb. We would dance to this song everytime we heard it. Weddings, parties, clubs, and once on a public sidewalk. I promise it wasn’t too embarrassing.

Wonderful memories of a love so sweet in so many ways that continue on even after the grave. I really do wonder where would I be without having had her in my life all those years. So many great memories and experiences that will stay with me no matter what comes. I’m very thankful for that.

So which song connects with you? I’d love to hear about your song and your story so please leave a comment to share. And while you’re doing so, queue up that song of yours. Play it loud and sing along. Get that feeling inside your bones and go electric wavy when you turn it on. Dang there comes that other JT! He’s pretty good too.

See you down the road.

Strength In The Broken Pieces

Have you ever broken something?

I know, a silly question isn’t it. We’ve all broken something during our lives. A toy, a glass, grandpa’s storm door, a friendship, a heart. Some breaks are easy to fix while others are hard. And sometimes what has become broken is the hardest to mend. Our self.

Through this first year without my wife Barb, there have been many times that the brokenness I experienced was so complete that I honestly felt lost. Lost to the point I had no idea where to find or how to put things back together again. Have you felt that way? It’s an empty, deep, dark place to be.

When you lose that one thing, the person, that brought wholeness to your life and fullness to your heart, it’s, well, indescribable. It’s one of those things that until you have experienced it you really cannot understand how it feels. Have you been there?

As many of you know, my wife’s brain cancer was not the first brokenness our family had felt. Just a few years before Barb’s passing, her younger brother Greg also died of brain cancer. To lose one was tragic but to lose both of them to this vile disease has been truly devastating. It felt like our lives had been broken into pieces and scattered across the table. Spilling onto the floor. And some pieces seemed to have been lost. That’s what cancer can do to a family. It was not the first time cancer broke me.

When I was 15, my father died of lung cancer and other complications. Dad was a smoker and a drinker. Two habits he developed during his youth and service in WWII. When he was wounded in Europe and sent stateside to recuperate, he met my mom.

I was their only child. They adopted me in 1959, eleven days after I was born which is a story for another time. Through my childhood, my dad was not totally present in my life. He lived with mom and me, took me fishing and mushroom hunting, took vacations with us each year, but being a fully involved fulltime father he was not.

I resented my dad for that and when he was diagnosed with cancer and started to spend even more time away from home, at the hospital, I resented him even more. Such a foolish, childish, selfish way to feel as my dad struggled with his illness. When he went to the hospital the last time, I never went to see him. He died and I stayed home due to fear and that resentment. It’s something I will never get over. I wish I could go back now and be there for him. Do you have regrets of resentment like that? It’s another empty dark place to be.

But we do not have to stay there.

When our lives are broken and become scattered, we have choices to make. We can choose to allow the darkness to hold power over us or we can choose to overcome the darkness to live again. I’ve learned this now. I’m stronger than before. I’m no longer that young man afraid and resentful. I’m learning to find the broken pieces of my life and put them back together. Not the same shape as before. A life that is different for sure but also a life that is strong.

I’m finding strength in the brokenness through my friends, my family, and my faith. This cord of three has proven to be unbreakable in my life. It has pulled me up, gathered me in, and put me together again. It is healing and powerful. It is a gift.

If you have this cord of three in your life you know how great a blessing it is. If you do not, I encourage you to reach out to those around you who are waiting to help you heal, to mend. You don’t have to go it alone.

But you should know there are really four cords involved in living. Friends, family, faith, and the fourth cord is yourself. It’s up to you to first start putting yourself together and although it can be a rough start, you can do it. If I can you can too.

Over this past year, I’ve read many books, watched many videos, and prayed many times to find strength and wholeness. You have to find what connects best with you. One thing that has helped me very much is the book “Healing After Loss” by Martha W. Hickman. Her short but spot on daily meditations are really helping me grow stronger through the healing process. You may find her words helpful too. I’ve included a link below regarding her book.

If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, if you are feeling broken, I want to encourage you to not give up. It’s hard, this grieving process, but you can get through it. Persevere. You can find strength in the brokenness and that strength will lead you to a life of renewed meaning and wholeness. You are stronger than you know.

See you down the road.

Martha Higgins’s “Healing After Loss” is a wonderful book of daily meditations to help you through your grief. Available on Amazon via the image above.