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(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

My friend shared on Facebook how differently his life has turned out from the plans he had 30 years ago when graduating from college. Instead of becoming Mr. International-Business, he is back living in his childhood home, after choosing to be his parents’ full-time caregiver. His life is full of love and laughter, despite the tears and despite having to do hard tasks for his parents. He understands how to find joy in ordinary moments such as walking along the river, observing the patterns created while pushing a snow blower, or reveling in sharing memories with his mom and dad while their shaky hands slowly help decorate the Christmas tree. And yet, he is happy in the life he has.

That kind of happy is easy to be around because it’s not the kind of happy that comes from having, doing, and/or achieving. Instead, it’s the kind of happy that comes from being—and loving.

Today I sat in a radiology waiting room with a man so like the one my friend thought he would be all those years ago. This man was busy—and, as far as I could tell, happy with all that busyness. He made one call after another. “I’m not sharing this with anyone else yet.” “I won an award.” “Please change the flight for our nanny for the Hawaii trip.” “I’ll be in a conference call from 2:30 to 5:00.” Call after call, the man just kept going.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t trying to listen—I’m just sharing some of the snippets that kept intruding on my plan to read my book in relative silence—while, once again, waiting for someone I love who was at a medical appointment. I was looking for a quiet, peaceful moment when I could relax and try not to worry about the whys for our visit.

Most likely our visit was just a rule-out activity, but it’s not lost on me that for some people this is the place where what they never planned to experience is discovered.

From the cheerful banter and movement from one phone call after another by the other occupant of the waiting room, I got the impression the man was there for something such as a picture of an achy knee or some other sort of a hitch in his get-a-long—some body part that was slowing down his fast-paced life.

That’s why I was surprised when I heard his offhand tone as he said, “Oh, I’m just waiting to get a CT scan. They want to look at those blood clots in my lungs. They’re saying I might not be able to fly.” After a pause and a short laugh, he added, “Well, that won’t work. I have to be there, you know?”

Despite his almost frenetic activity, I really did get the impression it was no cover for fear. He just didn’t have time for that sort of thing (health difficulties) in his life—he had things to do, people to see, and places to go. Something like that just wasn’t going to slow him down.

I wish him well, but I just wanted to shake him and ask him if he’d heard himself. If nothing else, there are the people who rely on him at work or at the companies with which he deals, not to mention his wife and the two boys under his nanny’s care. Might taking a break from all his plans be better than letting everyone else figure out how to do without him permanently?

Nothing against the man—well, except for the fact it never seemed to occur to him that maybe I didn’t want to listen to all his phone calls—but I question his priorities. His body clearly has some problem, but he acted as if he thought he was just spending time waiting to check off another “to do” from his list.

If that’s the kind of person my friend had become, then we probably would have drifted into way different circles.

But long before his parents became ill, he recognized those original goals weren’t really his. He is a healer of a person, not a wheeler and dealer. I am blessed to know him—the him he was and the him he allowed himself to become. And truly the world would be a better place for us if more people such as he is were the wheelers and dealers of this world, but I don’t think that lifestyle would feed the healers of this world in the ways they need to be fed.

Blessed are those who feel blessed, even when they have few of the trappings of the world—for they know how to slow down and see God in the tiniest grain of sand or while experiencing a nano-second of joy.

Well done, oh good and faithful servant—you “get” it.


(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Today we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States.

Thanksgivings past included small get-togethers with our family and my grandparents on my father’s side, with mom’s family usually celebrating with the large, crazy crew on the weekend. My grandparents’ house overflowed with kids in all stages—some of us even considered it a great privilege to eat at the kids’ table in the hall where we could keep our own kind of humor and noise without quite so much supervision from the adults. Soon we grew too big to sit in the hall, but still we kept to our own table as it moved into the living room.

There were some givens: uncles sleeping while “watching” football, the older cousins telling ghost stories in the bedroom with that light pull that swung and glowed in the dark, going down in the basement while some played pool, and often some of us would go off-site (to the house of Uncle Carrell and Aunt Dottie) where my mom would play the piano and lead many of our generation in song. For me, it was never about the food.

Of course, we cousins grew up and started our own Thanksgiving traditions, which is a big part of why my mom spearheaded the family’s reunion tradition—within the larger family, we get our Thanksgiving in the summers.

After my parents moved from Nebraska to Colorado we tweaked our family’s tradition. Often my parents and my brother’s family would come to Denver to celebrate first with Sherman’s family. And then we’d all go up to Mom and Dad’s place in Estes Park, which barely held our families. A few times Dad paid for Sherman and me to stay—kid-free!—in motels. We even slept in our slightly heated RV one time.

As with my grandparents’ celebrations, there were a few givens: James Bond marathons on the TV, shopping in Loveland and Longmont, walking to that darn cold parade downtown, watching the CU/Nebraska game, and taking a drive to see the elk in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Times change and now we are reinventing traditions again. We stay in Denver the whole weekend and celebrate Thanksgiving somewhere with the larger Lambert clan—my family members join when possible. Our own kids are home for their first Thanksgiving break from college. I am thankful that so many of us will be able to be together today.

Yet, I cannot help but miss those who are not here with us, especially my mother who is still alive, but unable to handle the confusion and noise of large family gatherings, now for the second year in a row. Sadly this year Thanksgiving week began with her being placed under hospice care. Even last night’s dessert celebration at her residence was too much for her to take in.

So forgive me if my appetite for celebration this Thanksgiving is somewhat subdued.

Instead, my heart celebrates those I have loved who will not be at the table, but who have provided me with great bounty on my life’s journey.

I especially lift a toast to my husband who has not abandoned me as we try to see my mother through her final journey home—when others have been afraid to watch the changes and stayed away, he has never wavered. He believes that when people have been a large part of your heart journey, that you hold their hands and help them as they pass through the shadowy valley.

The truth is, however, that even we stay away far too much. What I’m most grateful for this year is that there are people who make it a calling to help my mother and so many others on their own scary journeys through Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Thanks to these men and women, Mom is always in loving hands.

Today we celebrate . . . .

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