Grateful for a Life, but One too Short

bekah 1

Hello on a cold, but manageable day,

It is in the single digits outside and for Pennsylvanians, but I actually like this kind of weather. Perhaps it is because it reminds me of being small. Perhaps it reminds me of the times I would play in the yard one particularly snowy winter and we made snow forts and tunnels in the yard. Life was simple then, or at least I thought so. Today is a day for me to focus and catch up. It is a day when FB has helped with its little Valentine’s wrapping of a message to make them more festive and to offer thoughts to those who matter to us. I remember as a small boy always feeling different about this day because my father would get chocolates for my sister and my mother, but we did not really get as much, so I learned indirectly (or directly) that Valentine’s Day was about females and not for males. Not that I felt that left out after the first time or so, but rather it was a different time I think. I am pretty sure my father was not trying to slight my brother or me.

As I have sort of a propensity to give to others, I tried to make sure that I did not forget Valentine’s Day for that other person when I was an adult. There was once before I was married that I did not to a particularly good job of managing this holiday and I was in deep trouble. That left a lasting impression to this day. I remember another time that Susan, my ex-wife, got her hair cut really short a day or so before Valentine’s Day and I did not know this was in the mix and she came home. My response, unwisely, was something like, “what the hell did you do to your hair?” She began to cry and there was no making up for that on Valentine’s Day, which was within a couple of days. It can be a difficulty for us as humans to adequately express our feelings. Then there is the sense of shouldn’t we just let the people we love know this daily. I am certainly not the first nor the last to call this Happy Hallmark Day. . . . What does it mean to love someone?  I have learned all too often that my love, or what I believe to be love, is sometimes selfishness. Not that I hope to be selfish or that I would intend to be so, but rather that my love is not nearly as unconditional as I might want. Perhaps that is the question, can we be unconditional in our love or in our giving to another? I certainly want to believe in the possibility, and yet I know even when I’m most well intended, it seems I’m always hoping for something in return. At this point, maybe it’s because I’m just merely getting old. Maybe it’s because I can’t decide if I want my solitude or I’d rather have someone around. Yet another Valentine’s Day has passed and according to some research in my class the other day over $1 billion was spent on Valentine’s Day. I’m certainly not saying we should fail to demonstrate the love or care we have for those who are important to us. Perhaps when I am questioning is what it really means to genuinely love someone. I think, in part, is that I still have this hopeless romantic inside of me hoping for that head-over-heels person. There’s also the realist in me who feels such a situation at this point in my life is unlikely at best. It is not that I’m depressed by such a reality, but rather I wonder how my life (and as I originally wrote, in a Freudian-way, “wife”) might’ve been different.

A few days have passed since I started this post, and ironically the experience that I wrote about in my immediate past blog has ended. Rebekah has lost her battle to remain on earth with us. She passed away this afternoon, after battling as well as she could against enormous odds. To lose someone in their 30s, in such a shocking and unfair manner, is always difficult. As my father said almost 40 years ago, “Parents are not supposed to bury their children.” There is nothing that can prepare someone to face such a tragic circumstance. It was heartbreaking to see her last evening, but it was abundantly clear that death would be a compassionate visitor rather than something to push away. That being said, nothing can remove the hurt or sadness that comes when someone so young faces the end of human existence as we know it. Could it be true that Bekah happened to be in that laundromat for what would occur this week? If I had not met her that day, the last 5 1/2 years of her cleaning, calling, coffee-ing would not have happened, but perhaps more importantly, in my own piety, God would not have been able to use my background in being there with her and her family. As I often say, I do not believe God causes bad things (again, my piety and my opinion), but I do believe that there is the possibility to use whatever happens to bring us together in ways that we are able to support and care for others in ways we could have never anticipated. Why is it that some make it through things that they never should and others have a seemingly simple thing be life-changing?  . . .  It is now Thursday morning and a phone call last night, which was wonderful and needed, kept me from writing, so before I dive into the other things of the day, I am hoping to finish this and post it. Looking in the paper this morning, there was no announcement or obituary for Rebekah, but last night I found myself merely being quiet, listening to some music, and allowing those songs to be my own Psalms of lamentation. Music is such a wonderful thing because it touches the soul in the way few other things can. When, as scripture tells us, that the pain is too great for words, the spirit speaks on our behalf. I believe the way music affects our spirit is exactly that happening when we cannot find the words because we are so overwhelmed. I spent time reading the responses and outpouring of care from so many people. That is one of the positive possibilities of social networking, but it certainly demonstrated the impact that Rebekah made in what most would consider to be a relatively short life. What has been particularly interesting to me was that she was not a picture posting person, particularly of herself. The number of pictures that appeared in the last week were quite significant, but to see the transformation of her over the years was really quite fun for me, as someone who did not know her nearly as long. I think that is what is so momentous for me. While I am a people person, though not as much as I used to be, Rebekah had a way of disarming one’s defenses. Her infectious smile and her willingness to be just who she was, as well as her ability to be feisty/spunky and simultaneously compassionate/charitable, could not help but draw you in. I often told her, on the other hand, I would not want her angry at me. Again the passion that was such an integral part of who she was could be a double-edged sword. Her eyes, which were the most amazing color, could telegraph exactly what would soon be spoken.

It has been wonderful to meet her brother-in-law, Bill and her sister, Chandra. The other evening at the hospital as I listened to Chandra speak, the voice was a carbon-copy of Rebekah. Perhaps I should say that Rebekah was a carbon copy of Chandra since Bekah was the baby of the family. The way in which they have received me into their midst has been such a wonderful gift. There is so much that can be said about Bekah, but I can only say this: Bekah, you allowed me to be in your life as you took care of part of mine. You shared your wit and humor; you shared your fears and hopes; you shared both the important and the seemingly mundane; through it all you touched my heart. I am a better person for it. You knew your time was precious and you talked about that. There are times when we fail to realize we are in the face of such beauty, grace, and goodness. As I have looked at pictures this past week, you have had a beauty and elegance to you from the very beginning. Indeed, you were such a person, a person of unparalleled charm, beauty and love. I will miss your kindnesses; I will miss your ability to make me smile and laugh; I will miss the times you called and said, “I need to speak to Michael.” I will miss our meetings at DD or CB. I will miss seeing the red VW that turned into the white Bug that followed me into my driveway or old barn. I will miss the smell of a clean house and the notes on a table that told me what I needed to do to get my act together. You are loved, and that will never change. Bless you, Bekah.

I share this with Chandra, with Bill, with Bekah’s parents, with Kayla, and with all of those for whom she made a difference.

To the rest, thanks for reading.

Michael (Dr. Martin)

2 thoughts on “Grateful for a Life, but One too Short

  1. In my purse I have a brochure, “Decide for Yourself A Guide to Advance Health Care Directives.” I picked it up while my husband was in an OR getting a shot to relieve the pain he suffers in his back. The good news is that nothing catastrophic happened. More good news is that we have our decisions in writing. Rather than making me sad, I feel OK. Thanks, Michael for the thoughts.

    • It was so nice to catch up with you this morning. Now you have some (more) idea(s) about me and how my little brain functions. Life is such a gift, but one we take for granted all too often. I am blessed that I have had such a wonderful opportunity to be among so many great people in my life and learn so much.

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