November 26

Tomorrow is the beginning of Advent, which may or may not be the beginning of a series of Advent-related posts on my blog. Even if I don't end up writing my way through these holy days, I've tagged all my past Advent posts so you can find them easily. Most of them are other people's writings, which makes them all the more worthwhile.

One good reason to get all your holiday shopping done on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday (this is a new one to me, but I like that the day also gets a name), is that you don't have to think of presents for the rest of the season. Here is where I shall make a subtle word distinction. It is good to get present shopping over with, but it is all the more good to make this a season of giving. I say that without the Hallmark cheesiness. I mean, rather than shopping frantically, it would be appropriate in these next weeks to think about generosity, about giving and receiving with a thankful heart, the way it ought to be done. Take a hiatus from the jewelry commercials and the sales racks, and consider how you can give of your time, attention, affirmation, and acts of service. These have little (or nothing) to do with your wallet, and everything to do the season.


Last Things

Less than an hour after my last post, my grandfather passed away. Any meditation on the words of C. S. Lewis seems a worthy occupation in a time of great weight, but I confess that I wish I'd been quoting something from A Grief Observed or The Great Divorce in my post - something with uncanny relevance. I like to look back and see uncanny relevancies, but there were none in the late morning of October 30th.

I learned a few things that day, and they were mostly very human things, universal in a molecular rather than a spiritual way. Looking back in a not-uncanny way, I feel I understand the incarnation much better than I did before. Death shows us what a body is, what it means to be embodied, what it means when these bodies are done with themselves, when they say "it is finished."

I have never been much bothered by death. I know that most people fear it, and that perhaps in some very ancient way, I fear it too, and that is why I jump at surprising noises and shake my head at bad drivers. But in the part of my brain that does more than simply react, I am bothered more by the absence of death than its presence. We go to great lengths, not just to avoid death for ourselves, but to avoid any reminders of it. Maybe this is just living in Los Angeles, but I'm pretty sure it's more widespread than that. I think this hurts us very deeply.

I miss my grandfather. What I miss most is caring for him. Not in some noble, Florence Nightingale kind of way, but in the way that caring for people who are older makes you forget yourself. It slows you down. It causes you to put everything else on an indefinite hold. In some ways, this is about priorities. But more than that, it's about seeing another person more than yourself. Sitting in the room with him during his last week, I felt I could watch my grandfather's determined breathing for hours without discomfort or distraction.

It is my hope that I have learned something from this, that two weeks later I would be more capable of recognizing the needs of others, more conscious of the life and spirit in those around me than I am in myself. But I think I am still much the same. It's a bit disappointing, but it's not very surprising. We are stubborn souls. I still hope, though, that underneath all my sameness some change is being wrought, day by day, word by word - a change I may not recognize myself, but which is acknowledged by the one who matters most. The other one who died. Who had a body, and blood. I can, perhaps, manage enough forgetfulness of self to let him manage the change, to leave it to him.
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