All Grown Up Needs an ID Card

There are a number of cultural milestones we embrace in the West to signify we are adults or at least moving in that direction. Sixteen gets us a driver’s license, 18 is the time of graduating from high school and obtaining voting privileges. At 21 we are legally able to drink, at 22 or so to graduate from college and maybe in those years between 25 and 35 years of age we might land a “real” job, get married, have children and secure a mortgage.

But it is within the last few years I’ve learned that much of being all grown up is when your parents die, and by the fact of life, you become next in line on that lonesome trail.

My mother died 1 ½ years ago, my father-in-law in April 2012. My wife and I were with them in the long physical struggle of leaving this world. These are the grown up moments when the course of existence places one in the middle of ongoing life and the realities of death. A foot in both worlds, so to speak. A foot planted in the ongoing tasks of working, paying bills, being involved in one’s community, and the other foot lodged in the decisions of end of life health care, funeral preparations, and watching loved ones exhale the last gulp of earthly air. Being grown up comes at that moment, I think. It was a time when routine activities of earthly existence continued flowing ahead, while the demands and necessary assignments of preparing to die get intermingled. It is in these days that we are grown up—balancing, like the scale of Blind Justice, the now and not yet; what is and what is yet to come; with an energy that is a mixture of human sweat and fortitude with an element of divine grace and view of eternity.

I am grown up, as is my wife. We can now accept our place as adults. Maybe there should be an ID Card for this transformation just as there are for all the earlier life milestones we celebrate. Maybe a card to carry in our wallets and share with people when they ask to see some form of identification; a card identifying who we have become. When we share that ID card, they will know that we have weathered a great deal in life and realize that the lines on our faces or our graying hair match the events that drew and colored them.

Blessings to you all as you travel toward the grown up phase of life. May you acknowledge its difficulties, wisdom, endurance, commitments, and realities that come with age.

Grace and peace to you.
David Neidert

One by One, Count Them All

“It seems kind of surreal,” my wife remarked laying on the couch absorbed in her iPhone apps.  We were talking about a friend of mine who died a few days earlier of cancer.  I had commented to my wife that I was glad I went to visit him in the hospital only a few days before he passed away.  I’m not sure he was 70 years old yet; the loss of an energetic community leader.

                My wife’s statement was about my own cancer surgery in 2008.  While my wife thought it all felt surreal from the vantage of the beige couch, I responded, “I think about it almost every day.”

                Now, I don’t think about cancer in the gloom and doom kind of way.  That episode did not paralyze my life or destroy my attitude about the future.  Quite the opposite happened, really.  I think about cancer almost every day and it reminds me of how blessed I am; how thankful I am for the moments I get to experience and savor.

                I do feel blessed.  There is gratitude for my family.  They bring joy and enjoyment.  The telephone calls with my daughters and son add to each day.  Seeing my wife reminds me of commitments and that two people, so connected to each other, can weather much.  I also enjoy a good hug from my eldest grandson or just playing gently with the brown, curled locks of my youngest’s hair as he masters yet another video game (he is three by the way).

                My work—my life calling—brings intellectual, spiritual and emotional satisfaction Monday through Friday (and a number of evenings).  What I do in those 8 to 10 hours isn’t really work—like labor one would dread.  It is a path to legacy and service to others.  I give my best to this vocation because I am reminded that the service given to another through my efforts is a high calling for life and what one owes another human being.  Blessings come in unexpected ways daily because I am looking for them with those I encounter; but they also just appear from the most unexpected moments of bumping into another’s life story.

                If there is a downside to this gratefulness it would be twofold: I am less patient with people who don’t count their daily blessings (because they are bountiful in this country) and I have a more even temperament about a lot of things that riled me before my cancer diagnosis and surgery.  I do get angry and frustrated about issues and stuff (I am human) but I have started to see that most things “will be okay.”  That may be taken as non emotional, a lack of engagement, or not caring about items which make up our everyday existence; but that would be a false assumption.  I do care, I am engaged, but in the end “it will be okay.”

                And the impatience?  Well, many people (in my opinion) make the trivial so life important or earth shattering.  I have little patience for this kind of response these days because people have lost perspective by deceiving themselves into believing they will live forever.  A reality check everyone—you and I are going to die.  My advice: keep all things in their proper perspective and place of importance in your life.

                “Count your blessings, name them one by one,” is a song I learned early in attending church.  I count them every morning and throughout the day.  The ten-inch long scar I see every morning when I look at my naked torso in the mirror reminds me how blessed I am for good healthcare, family, friends, faith and all I experience in 24 hours.

                Take a moment right now—or at least sometime today—to reflect on your life and its blessings.  Put it all in its proper perspective.  Count your blessings one by one.  That simple act will keep you centered on what matters in the world and in your life, whatever amount of it you get to enjoy.

Blessings, grace and peace.

David Neidert