She parks her car on the curb of a familiar street before dawn, unstraps her seatbelt, opens the door, and quietly walks across her neighbor’s lawn to the coiled hose by the front window. Her grip on the garden hose reflects her grief as she moves reverently into the street and washes away the blood of a beloved cat who had been hit by a car the day before. “The water washed away everything but the chance to begin again…” notes Brain Andreas.
She picks him up, no questions asked, and drives the streets of the city until the stars have time to calm him, and she knows he is ready to return. The closer they come to home the more he fidgets in his seat, and she instinctively knows his fear, “I will go in with you,” she said gently patting his bent shoulder. He is young, he choose wrong, and yet they are able to leave it behind on a long leisurely drive. No words, just time. They will laugh about it another day, together, maybe under the stars.
Dressed in old shirts and jeans, they arrive in the early morning with buckets, squeegees, window wash, and gracious smiles. An unexpected gift of dear friends who hope to brighten the occasion. It is graduation day and this home will soon be thriving with sixty some guests ready to celebrate a daughter’s accomplishments. They get to work, circling the house, clarifying the view one window at a time. Oh how different the future seems with clean portals in which to see the world.
They arrive with bags of groceries, pyrex dishes, extra sets of hands, smiles, warmth, but mostly understanding for the new mom with identical twins. They wash produce, chop vegetables, create sumptuous meals, hold babies. For weeks they continue to serve, honoring her work as a mother, becoming part of these precious new lives. The weight of nurturing newborns is only bearable when we hold them together.
They keep coming, friends from her youth, family, neighbors, and loved ones. They keep coming with food, flowers, presence and care. They keep coming to spend time with their beloved who is so close to death that heaven now seems closer to them. They keep coming to break bread, sip tea, sit together on the foldout, laugh, and love one another. What they do not know is how they are holding the children, the caregivers, those weighted down with the grief of their love. They keep coming, giving so much more than they will ever know.
The child is young and troubled by the many traumas of life. Thank God for the man with arms strong enough to hold open the doors of time, with just enough space for the child to squeeze through, and move in a new direction. This kind of love is grounding, it allows the child to pick up the reigns, resume control, and move on. He trusts in the nature of the child, not the deed, and therefore the child is trustworthy. An immeasurable act of kindness, “what you do to the least of these you do unto me…” Jesus.
She kneels down in the evening, I picture her in the room they call living, eyes closed, heart open, a rosary swinging from her soft hands, as she moves into the familiar rhythm of prayer it happens. She feels the presence of the one she holds in prayer, the one she is bringing closer to God with her humility, and devotion. She does this repeatedly when her friends heart is so heavy that even prayer seems impossible.
She gently cares for the one she exchanged vows with decades ago, a lifetime ago, when their limbs were strong, and life seemed full of possibilities. Oh how passionately they loved one another, the children who came to be, the work they pursued. The juggling of life takes precision and cooperation but it is enormously satisfying nonetheless. Today her spousal love is expressed during a ride to the doctor, a meal shared in the evening, but mostly in the gentle words of encouragement, like vows, shielding them from the ailments of this world. “In the end I think I will like that we were sitting on the bed, talking and wondering where the time has gone…” Brian Andreas
She has walked beside death more than anyone I know, beside children, siblings, parents, and friends. I believe she has one foot in heaven and the other in life because when you are with her she radiates love, not the kind in a hallmark card, the kind of love that surfaces from the ashes of deep grief. There is an essence about her, in the way she moves, always to serve, to heal, to witness. For I know not who I am if not for you.
They land on the patio just in time to hold her above the grief that she is drowning in, with laughter, talk, and compassionate eyes, like human life preservers they keep her afloat. She hopes they don’t notice the grief she holds behind her eyes, it spills out onto the ground, but they just push it away with their feet. [adapted Brian Andreas] This is life, it ebbs and flows, mimicking our pain, but so much closer to our joy.
The woman places the gift of an angel in a space she passes by each day, as a reminder, yet she has always known. They are sisters in life, not necessarily by blood, but by choice. They have listened to each other’s words, letting the ones without worth pass over, holding tight to that which has meaning. Faded pictures guard their history like centurions of time but that doesn’t explain the way they are entwined, the angel does.
There are times when I have no idea what comes next and it’s the thing I’ve come to love most about being alive, leaning to hear the invitation of each day and feeling my whole body melt when I say yes, yes, yes, perfectly penned by Brian Andreas. Sometimes life wears me out, but I keep walking, even when my feet are sore. We want to give the people we love something of value but the truth is our acts of love are as priceless as a foot rub.
These actions are “deep virtues of kindness, of goodness, of curiosity, and enjoyment,” says Padraig O’ Tuama, “but they contain something that is actually a vessel of deep safety and community.” We don’t always agree on things, in fact we commonly have radical discussions, where we end up agreeing to inhabit the space between our differences, but always I have these acts of love in my back pocket, and those speak so loudly, I can not hold onto our differences.
Padraig O’ Tuama says, “There’s a beautiful phrase from West Kerry where you say, ‘Mo sheasamh ort lá na choise tine,’ ‘You are the place where I stand on the day when my feet are sore.’ And that is soft and kind language, but it is so robust. That is what we can have with each other.” There are layer upon layer of stories to be told, I hope you find yourself in one of those mentioned above, and know that you are loved.
Help me to be less fearful of the measure of time, and more fully alive in the time that simply is. Help me to live time, not just to simply use it; to breathe it in, and return it in acts of love and presence. Avis Crowe
I’m Living in the Gap, drop in anytime, share a few radical acts of love in the comments.