Sunday, April 26, 2015

Finding grace

Many of my blog readers know that my 28-year-old son, Kris, was diagnosed with ALS last summer, less than a year after his marriage to his wonderful Michelle, at a time in his grown-up life when so many things were going so well.

It is a Big Sucky Thing. A Very Big Thing. A big elephant in the room sometimes. A big thing to talk about. A big thing to avoid talking about. And so far, it hasn't been a thing for me to blog about. Partly because it's Kris's story to tell. Partly because it's hard spending more than a few minutes in the room where ALS lives.

It's not hard, however, spending time with Kris. It's never been hard spending time with Kris. He is one of God's most sociable beings, good company at the ball park, good company in the back yard, good company in a struggle--like the one we had taking care of Lon during Kris's years in high school.  He is good company with a beer and a fire, with a book, a movie, or with friends, lots and lots of friends.

Thus it has ever been. For me, his mom, he was good company as an eighteen-month-old, when I couldn't understand what he was chattering about. He was good company as a newborn, a tiny but alert little fellow in the hours after the long labor that led up to his birth.

He's also good company over at his new blog, Gronks Finding Grace, where he is writing about his experience as a young person with ALS. More importantly, he is writing about the good things in his life, including all the grace and goodness that have come his way in the past year as he fights with his socks, learns about wheelchairs, and continues to love and be loved by friends, family, colleagues, students and especially, Michelle.

This grace he is writing about is a good thing--a good thing in a way that goes way beyond Martha Stewart saying A Good Thing, beyond the nod and affirmation that goes with using that phrase to reorient someone regarding a change or a message -- "no, it's a good thing!"

This grace Kris finds is a very good thing because it's corporal, meaning it's physical, it relates to the body. It's things like having his parking place dependably plowed all winter long. It's wheelchair races with the good buddy from college. It's people who care and encourage and see him as the whole person he is--a talented teacher, a good friend, a loving son, a caring and thoughtful husband.

I don't find a lot of comfort in airy spiritual places these days--not in Easter hymns, not in Pauline theology, not in high-flying biblical imagery or transcendent divinities.

I do find it in good things here on earth. The hardwood floor beneath my bare feet. Cheese and bread and good beer. People who walk alongside me as friends, without expecting long answers to "how are you doing?" Grace is in the fabric I bought at the quilt show this weekend--unplanned purchases, utterly impulsive. It's in friends, in good singing, in books, in work. And of course, grace is in my great pride in my children: in Kurt who will graduate from college in a few weeks and go off on a ten-day medical mission trip to Nicaragua before figuring out the next part of his life; in the one-and-only Eliza, and in Michelle and Kris.

Go read Gronks Finding Grace. It's a blessing to me--hope it is for you, too.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Love one another

Many coherent blog topics floated through my head tonight during the Maundy Thursday worship service. Beautiful service, beautiful music (yay! Joyful Voices), good sermon. Meaningful.

But the lessons of the night came later.

Went home and poured myself a beer--a porter, with some body to it, because I'd had only a salad for dinner and thicker, darker beer seems nourishing.

But the phone rang and my sister needed help with my mother, who was suddenly in too much pain to stand on her own and couldn't get out of the car at a restaurant, couldn't get out of the car back at her condo.

These kinds of calls are tough. Tough to assess the situation over the phone. Tough to figure out what to do. Tough to remain patient. Tough when what to do means abandoning the couch and the porter, and giving up the sense that the evening is winding down, and heading off into the night. I headed for church, lucky to have keys, to borrow a wheel chair. Found a friend to help out there--help mostly with keeping me patient--and we got my mom inside. She had to walk a little bit to get to the bathroom and whatever had given her so much pain before worked its way out. She was back on her feet--though in need of a doctor appointment.

So I headed home where I had an appointment with my daughter to brush the tangles out of her hair.

My daughter has very long hair that she can't quite take care of on her own. Neglect it long enough and she's headed for dreadlocks. Brushing the tangles out is horrible. I persist while she cries. I try to hold the locks so that the force it takes to get through the matted hair with the comb does not go directly to her scalp. But I don't always succeed. It's miserable, and I don't know why we let it get so bad. But there it is.

Foot-washing looks easy by comparison, even with the kneeling and the scrubbing and Simon Peter protesting. But surely Jesus had his moments with this. Did he keep a straight face with—Bartholomew, say—the disciple with the ugliest, stinkiest feet? Did the water slop on the floor, the towel around his waist get untucked? Did he think, jeez, you guys ought to wash one another's feet— for God's sakes! Was there one of his disciples who just drove him nuts on a regular basis?

He kept on. He served, loved, abandoned the couch and loved them to the end.

Life and love are in those crappy moments.