It was just over four years ago that I wrote a piece on the topic of Embracing Uncertainty. It is one of four themes in my writing. The Love of My Life, The Powdered Donut Manifestos, and I Have Been Provoked being the other three. As my 55th birthday unfolds this morning, I am reflecting on the things I love. Two of them, Kyla and Katelyn, our daughters, came up to my office, where I am listening to music and writing, to give me a hug and wish me a happy birthday. The other, our son, Taylor, is a thousand miles away with his grandparents, Maureen’s mom and dad, on Callawassie Island near Beaufort, South Carolina. He is wrapping up his Third Year at the University of Virginia online, after a spring break build with his Habitat for Humanity Club from UVA in Charleston, just before everything began shutting down. And, of course, I can’t help but reflect on the love of my life, my Maureen. This is my 6th birthday that I have celebrated without her on this side of heaven. Hers will come in a few weeks, April 28. Holidays are hard, but birthdays and anniversaries are always the most reflective and emotional. I think it is because they are “creation days,” the days we were created, as our life moved out of the womb into the world, and anniversaries because they are the creation of something entirely new, in our case, Maureen and my love fully expressed in our vows at our wedding.
When I wrote four years ago, I spoke of trailheads, in my case, a personal one. I did not fully describe the setting in that post, but the picture at the top of it gives a glimpse into the story behind the story. For you see, the boots by the trailhead sign were Maureen’s. The kids and I had gone to Lost Maples west of Austin and San Antonio for a hike a few months after her passing. We had done a similar hike a few years earlier with Maureen and some wonderful family friends. Maureen loved this place. She loved her family. She loved her friends. She loved this hike. I brought her boots. In the case of much of her clothing, we donated it to either Goodwill or in the case of her suits and work clothes to Safe Place, a placed for abused women seeking to escape tough situations. Some of her clothing has been made into pillows and many other special items will be made into quilts for the kids to keep, just like the blankets she had once sewn for them. But her boots. They did fit me, so I brought them with me, along with my own, to Lost Maples. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them when I did. Wear them? So I could hike this special place in her shoes? Be her eyes, so she could see it again, through me, from heaven?
However, as we prepared for the hike, it struck me. She always loved where her feet were. For all who knew Maureen, you will know what this means. If her feet were near your feet, then you were the most important person in the world to her at that moment. She understood the Three Questions, based on a story by Leo Tolstoy. “Remember that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world.” The most important person was always the one Maureen was with. For almost 25 years of marriage, I was blessed to be with her. I still am in a lot of ways. But I wanted her feet to be in a place I knew she loved, so I set them by that trailhead post at Lost Maples. I don’t know where those boots are now, but that is part of the fun. They may be on feet somewhere. Sharing love like she did.
So, as we are all separated during this challenging global pandemic, I reflect. On people. On time. On what is important. What I find interesting is that in this time of separation, we are perhaps realizing just how connected we all are. Although this particular virus is wreaking havoc and sadly, bringing death to many, it has indeed given us a glimpse into how connected we all are. This virus does not discriminate. It passes across borders without hesitation. As we seek to eradicate it, though, will we remember the silver lining? Its other lessons? Right now, as much of the world shelters in place, our feet aren’t going very far. But that means, hopefully, we are close to the ones we love. And that we have time. Usually, our time is spent driving some place. Being stuck in traffic. Rushing. But now, that time has become sacred. It is time we have to reflect on the questions. And as our family did last night, like many other families, we connected via Zoom. It isn’t as fun as when we are all together at the beach in the summer, but we were still connected, not just by wires but by love. And yesterday morning, well over 100 of us from All Saint’s Episcopal Church sat in our virtual pews via Zoom and celebrated the love of God. A virus can shut down the sacred space for a while, but it can not shut down God’s love.
And so, I reflect. I reflect that all of us are on a new trailhead, not just embracing the uncertainty of this time when we are separated from each other, but the uncertainty of what happens next. This time of COVID will come to a close, and we will soon be connected again, physically, not just virtually. The question, though, is will we truly be together again or simply inhabiting the same physical space, rushing around again not realizing that the most important thing is the one standing by your side, whoever that may be? Will we truly cherish where our feet are? And more importantly, will our heart follow our feet? Will we “do good for the one who is standing at your side.” For me, as I reflect on time, 55 years in my case, I know that the trail is still only just beginning. And, I truly believe, that if we reflect on the silver lining of this time and embrace its uncertainty, then when we can be certain as we embark on the trail anew, and we can set a new course for humanity by setting a new course for ourselves. “There is only one important time. And that time is now.” And right now, I am certain of one thing, I love you.