Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Now Is the Day

In loving memory...
Mitchell Scott Kidd
1956 - 2011

"The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive."  Thich Nhat Hanh 

This past week I attended the funeral of a dear friend of our family. After a long and courageous battle with cancer, Mitch said his final good-bye to those he loved. My relationship with Mitch really hung on the fringes of his relationship with my dad and brother. Their friendship going back years "before my time", they were bonded together by a love for the great outdoors. Deer hunting up North near Walker, Minnesota was the yearly event. Hunting this ground is a tradition that was started long ago by my great-grandfather. Mitch and his brother Tom, and their boys not only found their way into that tradition, but  into the hearts of our family. And, by the time I was old enough to know what was going on, they had become family.

My memories of Mitch pretty much look like the pictures that fill our family albums. Lot's of "guy stuff". Hunting gear, orange vests, rifles, forests, cabins, trophy bucks and empty trucks. Groups of men walking the woods, standing around camp stoves and riding 4-wheelers. Manly men, for sure. As wonderful as those memories are, those snap shots both on paper and in my mind, I am so thankful for the last picture I have of Mitch. This is a picture that was formulated in my mind by the telling of a story. A beautiful story about a man that I never truly met until after his death. 

The first indication that there was more to Mitch than what I knew, was in the reading of his obituary days before the funeral. Within the first paragraph it stated that Mitch met his wife Glenda while working as a nursing assistant at St. Mary's hospital. I paused when I read it. "That's interesting." I said to my husband after finishing it. "I guess I never knew that about Mitch." This was my first glimpse at the softer side of a man, that in the last words of his life, would impact my world forever.

And then, there was the funeral. A great portion of the funeral service itself was dedicated to the reading of passages out of a journal that Mitch kept over the last year of his life. A day by day accounting or reckoning of details. A mixture of the mundane, the ordinary, the routine, with small essays on the lessons of life and of death. The reader of these pages was an older pastor that knew Mitch very well. He brought to our attention the fact that Mitch, for the most part, devoted a lot of his writing to the details of the day, with particular attention to the time that these details occurred. Things like, "Up at 5:30", "Breakfast at 7:30" "To bed at 10:30" and so on. Mitch gave vivid account of what he was eating, what the weather was like, what he was experiencing at a particular moment in time. And then sometimes a thought would follow, a prayer, a lesson learned or a message to a loved one. He had also dedicated the back pages of this journal to the addressing of his funeral. Who would be there to speak, what words to be spoken, what songs to be sung.

As I sat there, listening to the reader, I found myself swept away by the words. As if Mitch himself were standing before me, in the presence of his death, telling me of what mattered most in his life. I can not fathom the value of this gift to his family. I can only tell you of its beauty and worth to me. Of the role it plays in the struggle of my life, of my reckoning. You see, Mitch figured it out. Through his sadness and pain, through his frailty and imperfection Mitch came to understand the beauty and gift of each moment of his life. "Breakfast at 5:30" was not just a detail to Mitch, it was an experience. It signified a particular moment in time. A moment in his life that, in it's essence, held all that there was in the world.

I'm currently reading a book called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. In his chapter entitled Consciousness: The Way Out of Pain, there is a section which speaks to finding "wholeness". In this section Tolle describes the ego's need to identify itself with external things. It needs to be fed constantly and the most common "foods" have to do with possessions, jobs, social statuses, education, appearance, relationships, belief systems, racial, religious and other collective "identifications". Then he goes on to say simply, "None of this is You." And how difficult it is for us to believe that what we think is our identity is not really "Us" at all. All you have to do is listen to the journal entries of a man who knew the time of his death to clearly understand the grace of this life. The beauty of one moment.

Tolle ends his chapter with this sentence:  "The secret to life is to die before you die."

THAT was Mitch's message to you and to me. Precisely that. By the time the pastor had finished sharing, it felt as if Mitch were pleading with me, begging me to make the most of each moment of my life. Find the beauty in the mundane. Right here, right now - pay attention. It's not about the past. It's not about the future. It's about right now.

The last word Mitch spoke in his funeral came to us in the recessional hymn that he had chosen for this day. I leave you with the last verse.

Not in the dark of buildings confining, not in some heaven, light years away -
Here in this place the new light is shining, now is the kingdom, and now is the day.
Gather us in and hold us forever, gather us in and make us your own;
Gather us in, all peoples together, fire of love in our flesh and our bone.


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