I will never forget that one scene from ER where Dr Green lays dying, his daughter at his bedside, as he gives her his final advice.  “Be generous,” he gasps.  I love that scene.  Sometimes, when I am feeling stingy, Dr Green’s voice replays in my head, admonishing me.

 

It reminds me of a Bible passage we studied in church a few weeks ago.  The passage (Second Corinthians 8:1-6) was thus:

 

1And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. 6So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

 

It’s a great passage.   “See that you also excel in this grace of giving,” writes the Apostle Paul.  In other words, “be generous.”

Portentious of bad news received near the end of the day, I had a horrible time at work, all day.  I was just cranky for no particular reason.  Phones were ringing way too often and I was fighting hard to get organized and do some problem-solving, trying to get a new project started (not my choice, but something that was forced on handed to me and I am excited about- just not today).  Unfortunately, though, it has no buy-in from my co-workers that already hate work, and this change is disruptive to them as well.  Today was especially hard.  This new project pulls me out of the mix of our group work.

 

 We have a group of clients that meets monthly for a support group and I have been making the reminder calls.  Last month, one of the people on the list never answered the phone.  This month, his phone was disconnected.  (These things are not unexpected from our clients.)  I hoped he would remember…it’s always at the same bat time, same bat channel.

 

This particular person was not someone I knew well.  He- if I remember correctly-  collected cans on the street for money (can collectors and other people who keep the streets clean occupy a special place in my heart).  He may have been a little slow mentally, but was very insightful in certain ways; patient, kind.  He helped others- the group benefited from his presence.  He served as a mentor for children in his neighborhood- a sorely needed role model- an older man with a good heart.  I had had few interactions with him, but he had a certain special something that I can’t put into words.  Maybe like an aura.  What does make one person different from another, anyway?

 

I found out very near the end of the day that he had died.  I don’t know why I feel so incredibly, disproportionately sad at this news.  I don’t bond with people easily.   His corner – our corner- of the world had lost something dear and rare.

 

The person who told me this bad news said with a non-characteristic tenderness, “He was a gentle soul.”  That was the same thing I was thinking.   There was nothing else to say; I went back to my not-very-private work area and cried.  That’s all.  No words.  Only tears.

For some reason I am very weepy this morning, on our American Independence Day.  Usually I hate holidays’  interruption into my daily routines and find July 4th to be one of the silliest displays of “Ugly Americanism” possible.  But somehow today, I started thinking about the Statue of Liberty and how she was the first thing that immigrants saw as they disembarked awful, stinking steamships–  if they had survived the journey at all- the tired, the poor, the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” 

And it got me to thinking about how my ancestors got off those boats and had their last names mangled and Americanized (by possibly well-meaning and overworked Ellis Island employees) and lost part of their identities in exchange for newfound freedoms.  You know not everyone survived the journey; of course even now many people from Mexico die for the same reason.  Trying to enter Los Estados Unidos with a dream of a better life, just as my European ancestors did- and we mangle their hyphenated names too, our computer systems unable to handle the not-even-very complex system of ….well I digress.  My maiden name is unpronounceable and unspellable even in its Ellis-Islandified version- and I’ve seen it in the original language.  Jack’s is “odd” as well.  My dad’s ancestors were some of the few survivors of a ship that burned off-shore in a horrendous blaze visible for miles.  My maternal grandmother’s great-great-grandmother came over on a sailboat.   But our families came here- to America- with hope.  Hope and faith that carried them through steerage and seasickness and storms and uncertainty and probably even the separation from family back home awaiting the letter – in any language- telling them that it was finally time to join Papa in the new country.

I also have been thinking too much about this stupid ongoing war that we are still in for no reason. 

This year it is not a stupid picnic for me.  Nor just a stupid parade (though I will be there).  Not just a gun salute by the fewer-and-fewer surviving WWII veterans.  It is an actual celebration of freedom- well, the ones we still have and need to continue to fight for.  Fight with your pen (or your computer, or the library’s computer if you don’t have one) for it is mightier than the sword.  We the people elected our officials.  They need to  know what you think.  Tell them.  Write them.  Call them.  Even meet with them- they just might agree to it (yes, I know this personally.)

I wrote before about how death would be a sort of freedom.  Maybe that is why I am weepy today- because my ancestors were the ones that did not die while seeking freedom.  That, my friends, is irony: the best and most beautiful kind.

God bless America.  Let freedom ring.

As a Christian, I am supposed to aspire to an eternal “heaven,” a bliss, an unending perfection, right?  I don’t know if anyone really believes in the archetypal harp-and-clouds version, but the 72 virgins variation on the afterlife was quite motivating for some people.

I can tell you right now, I do not want to live forever.  The idea of any kind of eternity seems so exhausting to me.  Even if it were beautiful, 72 degrees F, with endless delicious food and non-awkward socialization and wonderful books and everything else.  That one commercial with 40 black cats peacefuly shedding on white furniture at first seemed like the closest idea possible, but no.  I am just too tired.

I don’t want to be reincarnated either, or to have another chance to right any wrongs (even being mean to my Japanese roommate after college.  I still feel bad about it, though, but it happened, and other people were way meaner to me in this life with no making of amends; life went on.).

I just want to be finally done.  I want to fall asleep in Jesus’ loving arms, and hear him say, “I cared about you always, no matter what you ever did; you did the best you could, and I forgive the rest.”  And that would be it.  No forever and ever, amen.  That would be it.

Why is suicide considered wrong, yet abortion is ok?  It seems to me that it should be the other way around.  Yes, I’ve read what Camus had to say about suicide (that no sane person would off him or herself) and he does have some smart arguments.  I disagree, however.  Logically, a person should be able to choose to end his or her own life; the life of another, however, is “other,” is sacred, is to be protected, even at great cost.