Monday, December 21, 2009

Foggy, foggy morning

Thick, pea-soupy fog blankets everything this morning and Tony just called to caution me to leave extra time on my way to an appointment this morning. He said it's just as foggy in town as out.

I'm grateful it's not inches of white stuff as they've had on the East Coast. I can deal with fog better.

The Daily Om has an interesting perspective on fog: stopping to listen carefully, moving forward with caution, paying attention to what is around you even if you cannot see it clearly. Eventually it lifts, revealing what it has hidden and making plain the shadows and obstacles.

One thing I know for sure: nothing lasts. Everything, even fog, will change and lift and become more clear. Everything changes.

We photographed the funeral of a young man this weekend who had served in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then in the Honor Guard on the East Coast. (His mother had asked for photographers to come, to document the ceremony.) He had begun a career after his honorable military discharge doing something he absolutely adored doing, and then, out of nowhere, came problems, big hairy ones, that dragged on and on, and eventually cost him his beloved jobs. Although the issues were finally resolved, there was a cloud that trailed him, and he killed himself.

So area veterans sent him to God with full military honors, a gun salute, and an extremely moving flag ceremony performed by two young men who had traveled to a tiny Tehama County cemetery to do this one last ritual for a fellow soldier who had done it for so many others.

There is no doubt that he was loved and cherished by his family and friends. But he didn't have the maturity, I think, to understand that everything changes, that nothing stays the same, that if he had made just another phone call, perhaps someone would have helped him to understand that, to see that even though his life was not the same, it could be good again in a direction a little differently than what he had planned.

I know it isn't that simple, of course. And I wasn't in his shoes, nor even an acquaintance. I know he left life too young. I know he left a mother who will forever have a hole in her heart, people who loved him dearly. I know he will never have a second chance.

Life throws us all curve balls now and then. But as long as we are breathing, we have a second chance. The path we thought we were on may swerve and go a different direction. It may be hard to see the way through the fog and the curves and the detritus that often accompany such change. But it WILL clear. It always, always does.

People around me, near and dear to me, are struggling with health issues and financial woes this year -- not because of mismanagement of money or neglect of health, but just because it was their turn, I guess. It's hard to feel so helpless, and also hard to feel very 'Christmas-y" in the midst of such life-changing moments. I guess part of that is how I've always felt about Christmas: a magical holiday where, for one brief period of time in a year, people get along, are happy, enjoy family and friends, and feel good about themselves and where they are, and grateful. I do feel grateful. I am immensely, hugely, tremendously, always grateful to be where I am and with Tony. That overrides everything else.

I wish the young man had been able to find just one thing to be grateful for in his life, just one reason not to do what he did. I wish he could have been able to find the inner assurance that his fog would indeed lift and that his path -- a new path -- would be revealed, one step at a time.

We live our lives day by day, not year by year. We do all we can today -- with all the tools we have right now -- to do what it is we think we must. But in so doing, we proceed knowing that as we journey we will see another part of the path, and that while it may go a direction we hadn't planned for, nor even want, we are only as alone as we choose to be. If we ask for help, someone may show us a part of the path we hadn't seen, or help us to walk out of the fog. Sometimes all we have to do is to extend a hand, reaching for someone, something, and we will connect.

I can't fix the health problems or money woes that my loved ones are having, but I am here to hold a hand, to cry with them, to just BE here so they are not alone in the fog. They do the same for me. And in the larger scheme of things, that is what matters most.

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