Dining in an expensive room

I am in an expensive room. Sometimes I get to sit in such a room. We are in the closing ceremony for the Veteran’s Entrepreneurship Program (VEP).

The room has our twenty five veterans who we selected from hundreds of applicants, and they amaze and humble me. They have served around the world. They have paid high prices and some wear their wounds where we can see them, and all of them put their chins up and shoulders back and soldier on. They have taken prices they pay in stride for serving as a part of the contract. Honor to have served is the byproduct that none of these question. Camaraderie is thick in the air.

These people are competitive, but their sense is that they compete against the world, and they would not dare leave any of the group behind. Compete, indeed.

They cheer for each other. Loudly. Like family.

They all came in wondering if they had what it takes to be an entrepreneur. They all were grateful for the chance to come and participate; and they seem clueless as to how much of an honor it was for us to serve them, teach them, encourage them.

We listened to Matt, VEP alum from only a year ago, over 1,000 combat flying hours, and a new business selling family games in 1,000 stores. Humble, quiet, succeeding. He spoke quietly but clearly, “You can do this, as well.”

They have defended our country, and have asked a helping hand to learn how to build it, one company at a time.

So we sat in the same room tonight, the day before they scatter to the wind to their posts, homes, places of possibility. I sat and ate in a room alongside people who donated the money to fly them in, train them, house them, feed them, and watch them flourish before our eyes. Some donate because their son or daughter passed away on the “frontier of freedom”, giving their lives for us to sit here, free, blessed, misty-eyed, and proud. I sat with the vets who have seen the “frontier of freedom” and fought to preserve it for us, and paid prices unaskeimage.jpegd, carrying some of those costs for the rest of their lives.

I sat humbled. Okay, misty eyed. And I remembered what I have remembered at the monuments on the Mall in DC, in the national cemeteries, and at the funerals of a few heroes.

People have paid a lot for me to sit here. People have paid an incomprehensible amount for me to sit here and have this storm of emotions whispering to me, how blessed I am.


I sat on the porch for just a few minutes, sun streaming through trees straining to bud so early, so early in spring.  I could barely sit still for five minutes.

I had already stormed in my head and heart at 2:25 p.m.  I stormed loudly making Jill endure me, because I was slow on the day, slow to meet deadlines, slow all week, the computer was refusing to let me do advanced things in a program, and today, these hours of time I might have purchased in the shop working on an armoire, or out biking, or working outside and breathing for the first time in a couple of weeks.  These hours.

Were evaporating.  Were evanescent reminders.  Someone is near death.  Other people accomplishing more than me in the same number of years; or less.  All of it stirring, turning inside to whisper that the time screams silently by, and it bears a new, unasked whisper, “You have not, and may not accomplish all you had hoped.”

On great days, that refrain comes and enriches my relationships with people I love, projects I have nurtured, and need to complete.  I pine for some folks, and play in my head with projects to complete them.  Today, it just churned.  It made of my soul a little foment.

It made me wonder if James, half brother of Jesus, was churning or pining when he penned, “your life is a vapor (I always think of it on a still lake) gone with the rising sun.”

Now, should I go to bed early or go out into the shop and do things to wood that I can see when I am finished?

Do I take my seconds to bed, or go serve myself a second helping of today?


Hellos across the worlds

Hi, Melinda.

You fought MS longer, better, more courageously than any other soul I know.

Your kids continued to grow stronger, taller, truer.  They pursued differing paths than any of us would have guessed when you were first diagnosed.  The grand kids are all taller, stronger and a little above average.  Your genes and spirit make them vibrant.

Your home was safe sanctuary for us in Miami.  Dan could come and go, but the anchor was in place, was secure because you were there.

When Dan told us that after the diagnosis so, so long ago that the two of you just returned to the car and held each other and cried and cried — I  instantly had the image — of hundreds, no thousands standing around that car.  All of us weeping or wiping tears.  Some holding each other, but all of us thinking that this disease, this test, this curse had hit us all.  And we silently held up our question to God, “Why her?”

You have answered that question fully, now, I know.  That is ancient, one world back history now, I know.  But I wanted to say it to simply say, “Thank you.”

Melinda, you made mother, friend, sister, Mother Superior, and encourager look so easy, so graceful.

And you are making it look so graceful again, of course.

And Pain to Go Around

That title statement is unclear.  It mean we all have pain we must navigate, we must “go around” and this will hold true in all seasons of my life.

It means there is so much pain to go around so we can all have plenty, that there will always be some unloading out of the back of a dump truck at my house.

Unasked.  Unsought.

Kimberly raced around as a child until a drunk hit her family’s car, and her child safety seat malfunctioned.  The family sued, so she always had a top of the line wheel chair, a nicer home to come home to, and had to trust some people to help her enjoy freedom and mobility.

Except for the last set who lived in her apartment, ate her food, and let her get down to 45 pounds.  When her parents found her in another state, the only medicine was palliative care.  She died yesterday.

That came to us Monday night.

I have looked for Mark off and on for three years.  I got lucky last night, and instead of googling his name, I googled his and Mackenzie’s together.  Bingo.  Found them.

Okay, found her obituary that enabled me to find him.  After her affair.  After they fought back and enjoyed ten years of marriage.  Before she succumbed to guilt or genes or whatever so Mark had to move out.  Six months before she died of cirrhosis of the liver while Mark and the two astonishing daughters, and Mark’s new wife held her hand.  Gone now.

If Jill and I knew and loved fewer people, we might know less pain.  If we held a smaller, tighter knit circle precious, we might be insulated from so much pain, which seems to abound so there is plenty to go around.

But as I sat in the living room, listening to our friend Don relate Kimberly’s sad trajectory after they moved and we lost track of them:  I also remembered firecrackers that rivaled small town celebrations, stunning meals, and small joys in their home.  And I shed deeper-than-tears joy.

And this afternoon as I commuted listening to Mark’s voice on the phone for the first time in 30 years, I wept when he did.  Luckily, I stopped at a light.  And then we shared incredible events bringing us together 30 years ago, and triumphs over those years, and how stunning his daughters truly are, and I touched hope.  We even laughed.

Yes, less exposure might lessen the amount of pain.  But the cost in lost joy is way, way, way too high.

Unthinkably high for any who have ever held Hope’s hand in pain.