The Meanings IN Life

When I sent my client a list of questions and action items early yesterday morning, I finished the list with a playful, “What’s the meaning of life?”

Then today, on this beautiful crisp morning, as I sat down on a patio chair for meditation, that question made its way through the candidates of my morning pause and begged for an answer.

As I’ve aged and as I’ve learned and as I’ve fallen and as I’ve grown and as I’ve listened, and as I’ve observed, my ideologies, beliefs, and values have been strengthened or have shifted and have had entirely new additions.

I’m not sure if there is a meaning “OF” life. There very well may be. The great philosophers have lobbied for multiple millennia over the Meaning Of prize. The Athenians (Plato, Socrates, Aristotle) would say it is happiness and a virtuous life; the Theist is about following God’s will; the Daoist follows the way to harmony; the Confucianist seeks moral character and benevolence. And the Subjectivist — of which I am one — believes that reality and my own “truth” is related to consciousness.

As a pedestrian window-shopping for what may be the meaning OF life, I can confidently say that I find meaning IN life.

As I exercise my level of consciousness and awareness, life’s meanings continuously flow like the current of a lazy river. I find meaning in the playtime with my little munchkin grandkids. I find it in the quiet moments at night when pondering the universe and its expanse. I find it when learning about and valuing others, especially in conversations that matter. I find it in the moments when we say nothing, but our spirits and touch say it all. I find it while pedaling on mountain trails and skippering my kayak through the rapids. I find it in the prose and poetry penned by the great authors who paint and interpret life in their words. I find it when my vocation is driven to build healing environments and much less about income or the creation of “wealth” (whatever that even means). I find it in the lyrics and the melody of others whose stories may have been mine. I find it in the natural and the supernatural.

And I find the meanings in life with and through you, my friends. Our chapters are fodder for an epic novel whose beautiful characters and magical acts are anything but fiction.

Birthday’s Murmuration of Ironies

Dad, you left life 34 years ago today. Way too young. I can say that not only because it is true, but because today, for a few more hours, I am the exact age that you were when you died. And I feel so young.

We knew you would be leaving us. The precious cadence of breathing was painfully difficult. Your soldier’s strength, withered and fatigued. And your quick and sharp mind acquiesced to the fade of memory and the struggle to grasp the moments around you.

The ironies sweep like a murmuration of flyers whose spirits mock the phrase, “Rest in Peace” and spend their days in playful heavenly dogfights. The night you passed, I was taking an evening break from the hospital watch. Home for dinner and to be with a gathering of friends who brought goodies and comfort as we knew the loss ahead and, at the same time hoped to offer birthday wishes and even a moment of celebration of life.

Later in the evening, unexpectedly, but not surprisingly, my brother-in-law knocked and entered my home.

“Dad passed.”

There were tears. Bowed heads in prayer. Whispered curses. Deep inhales and exhales as if ready for a leap into something unknown and unwelcome. And silence. My birthday would follow within hours of your passing. But, just a few feet down the hall, sound asleep in her crib, was Chelsea. Brand new to this world. She joined us only 19 days before this one. I walked to her bedroom and listened to her quick little breaths. They were soft and rhythmic and almost prayerful. Her eyes were peacefully closed. I imagined you in peace. With the heartbreak of losing you, Providence reminded me that where life ends, life begins.

I knew birthdays would forever really suck as April 12 would be full of memories and a sense of loss. But, I have Chelsea there to remind me of the moments you held her before telling us goodbye. Your words, “You be a good little girl. I love you.”

And then, as if Providence had not completed her work, and God was not finished reminding me of the imperfect and beautifully temporal nature of this world, Logan was born on April 14 two years later. Those “mysterious ways” reveal the beauty of life in the midst of great sorrow. So, here I sit, I am exactly the age you were on the same day when you left us and filed a new Flight Plan. And it was at this moment in the evening when you closed your eyes and flew.

I raise my glass of Scotch and toast you, to life, to the sweetness of its gifts, and to what’s next. I love you.