Life Is But A Preface

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Life is but a preface

To a never ending tome.

A story yet unwritten,

Waiting to unfold.

There is be no epilogue,

“The road goes ever on,”

As someone wisely wrote

Not so long ago.”

Our short stay here on earth is like the preface of a book. Short and sometimes sweet. If we stand back and put our years into perspective of just known history, our lives are very short indeed. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” As my parents have gotten older just like when my grandmother and great aunt had aged, I seem to be walking through the valley of the shadow of death. I am surrounded by their mortality, and reminded of mine.  One day, it will be my turn. And for the record, no one knows when it’s their turn. I don’t like to presume I have thirty more years, we’ve all learned, sadly, that some will go sooner than expected.

So somber, so sad…especially for those who left unexpectedly. But…as believers in Jesus Christ, the good news is that life really is just a preface, a short introduction to the complete story, the purpose of the literary creation. A preface to a wonderful story yet to be written by the One Who created the beautiful heavens and the luscious earth, the One Who wonderfully and fearfully created you and me. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

I have come to accept the finish line of this earthly race, whether it’s far ahead or near, I can’t tell. My eyesight has worsened since my 40’s. My hare-like nature has wizened up a bit, and is trying to apply some tortoise-shaped brakes to the break neck speed I’m used to. Always in a hurry. Time to slow down and ponder this short brief “vapor” of a life I’m living.

What is life all about? Is life nothing more than a library of stories of those who came before us, those who share our point in time and those who are to come? Our brief tango with time. Will our accumulation of experiences and memories only disappear after our deaths or, at best, linger in the memories of our family and friends? What’s it all about, Alfie?

When I was a young adult, I struggled with these questions. I struggled to find my place in my family and in this world. I sought for truth. The true understanding of what this life was about. I found the answer in Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  Coming from a catholic background, it wasn’t hard to personally embrace the teachings of the New Testament. Being born again was and continues to be the prime reality for me. Yay, Jesus lives! There is eternal life, and there is meaning to our lives here on earth. And there is Someone Who loves us beyond our imagination.

So after I made this decision, my life was perfect, right? Hahaha…ad infinitum. No, it wasn’t. I was still saddled with this human, sinful nature. I’ve made my share of mistakes, poor decisions and sins of omission. I’m at a place where I look around at the landscape of my past and try to understand my present. I am thankful God in Christ has forgiven me, and for all that is in Christ which is now mine. It’s taken me a long time to apprehend the treasures we’ve received as Christians. I hope I can redeem the remaining time for the benefit of my kids, to provide a somewhat sturdy, albeit at times stumbling example to walking in His steps.

Moses is attributed to writing Psalm 90. In this lovely piece of Hebrew poetry, he writes, So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.As I look forward (meaning looking forward (ahead), not looking forward) to the conclusion of my preface, however long that might be, I look to Him to teach me to number my days, that I may present to Him a heart of wisdom. Something I can take from this life, and hopefully, something that will linger in the memories of my family and friends to point them to the Ancient of Days, the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom He had sent.

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”
-Robert Browning

David’s Sunrise – The Power of the Gift of Art – by Wendy DeRaud

From beginning….

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…to the end.

There’s such a satisfaction for an artist in completing a project. Especially a painting such as “David’s Sunrise,” one that has such significance and meaning in the lives of those who will soon own it. Because of the story behind this image, the painting becomes much more interesting and profound.

I told the story a few weeks ago in a previous blog post, how Donna shot a photo of this beautiful South San Francisco sunrise on her way to work, not knowing that this was the exact location where her daughter’s friend David had died of a drug overdose just a few days before.

That’s one of the mysterious ways God works in touching lives and giving His amazing grace in time of great need.

To anyone else, Donna, a single mom of 10 on a limited income, would seem an unlikely patron of the arts. Yet she felt compelled to commission Mark to paint this, and made payments in order to gift it to David’s mom.

Little did she know that her commission would help Mark relaunch and rekindle his painting vocation after a long hiatus of discouragement.

Little did she know that this single photograph and subsequent commissioned painting would help a family heal as they honor and remember their precious son and brother, but also help draw attention to a much-neglected opioid epidemic in the Bay Area.

Next week we will say goodbye to this painting as it graces its new home, hopefully bringing peace and the tonic of redemption for a hurting family.


The moral of the story is, never underestimate the power of the gift of art. 

Thank you, Donna, for the privilege of being part of this story.

Why I Hate Drugs

David's Sunrise

I’m writing this blog in a lot of pain and anguish. Last week my daughter got word that a close friend of hers OD’ed. A good friend of mine lost her son last year to the same thing. Three bodies were found last week in San Francisco, their deaths attributed to suspected drug overdoses. At anytime in the past few years, I could have gotten – and can still get – that dreaded phone call about one of my kids. But I am not writhing in pain today, but this fella’s mother and father are as well as his siblings, cousins and the numerous friends who are shell-shocked by this catastrophic phenomenon known as death. A “really sweet” life gone much too soon.

Death is one of the reasons why I hate drugs, and that includes the abuse of alcohol. All my children, my siblings, and, I am sure, most adults I know are intimately acquainted with the pain associated with drugs and alcohol abuse. How many of us know people who died from alcohol related accidents or drug overdoses? Yeah, most of us. And death is a permanent robber. There is no re-do, no restart. It is GAME OVER for good. Not forever, because as a Christian, I know the good-bye is not eternal, just GAME OVER for here. But still the pain left in the wake of a loved one’s death is unimaginable, heartbreaking. No one is the same, no one recovers.

Another reason I hate drugs is drug use is living a lie. The high we get is a lie. I know many folks use all kinds of drugs to help cope with issues and other difficulties in life, but let me tell you, it’s a lie. Life is freaking hard, and drug use does not make it easier, it makes it harder. God has given us resources to help us in difficulty that can help us grow and not be dependent on drugs or alcohol or anything except Himself. Drugs rob us of those opportunities to grow, even though it’s hard. Sorry, I am really mad and really sad.

Another reason why I hate drugs is if they don’t KILL you, you STILL rob the world, your family, your friends of your life. All your gifts lie dormant, your talents subdued and your great potential squandered. All your parents see in you gets lost to this demon. Your laughter becomes hollow and your eyes dim, your dreams diminish and eventually disappear. All what a parent hopes for their child is lost. A different kind of death. And what is there….a never ending war because while there is life, a parent is gonna fight.

And finally, the last reason why I hate drugs is the pain. Everybody hurts….like the REM song. Granted, I know many who use are in pain, many who drink excessively have pain, I understand and sympathize, but medicating the pain through drug use and alcohol only perpetuates it; it doesn’t resolve it. So the drug user is in pain, I get it, but does the drug user know that their habit causes pain. We’re all in pain. A pain we who watch cannot stop because we love the user.

There’s got to be another way. I hate drugs, I hate what they’ve done to my kids, I hate what alcohol has done to my brother and ex-husband. Their dad’s choices have caused pain that my kids had to deal with at a very young age. I hope that pain can be converted to some good for themselves and their eventual families.

And now, I think about this young man’s mom and dad, and the devastating pain they are in now, today, tomorrow and for the rest of their lives. Someday I might have to walk in those shoes. My daughter has said flippantly, “You won’t care if I die.” I told her I don’t want to find out. I don’t want to know that pain. I am in pain for these people I don’t know just like I am in pain for my friend who buried her 37-year-old son last year. I hope these deaths will steer many away from these drugs. There are tons of resources out there to assist.

Life is hard just the way it is, no need to add to that hardship. Our children are our greatest blessings and most of us parents only want our kids to grow up and embrace life, life with its hardships, yes, but life also with its wonders and goodness. Faith in Jesus Christ gives meaning to this life, its joys and its sorrows. With Him by our side, we can face life. Although life is filled with death and its associated pain; hallelujah, we have a distant hope, one that can somehow – eventually – assuage the desperate, despairing depth of pain a loved one feels. Thank God for that.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.    – Revelation 21:4

 

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

https://www.smchealth.org/bhrs/aod/recovery

 

 

The Town I Loved So Well

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Pic courtesy of visitsantarosa.com

There’s an old Irish dirge, The Town I Loved So Well, sung by a number of Irish singers, but the version I like the most is sung by The Irish Tenors. I first heard this song while listening to an old Mary McGonigle LP. A recording I cannot find now. This song and Only Our Rivers Run Free from her albums took abode in my semi-Irish soul. And in March, I revel in these plaintive tunes. Phil Coulter wrote this song about his hometown of Derry in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland when it was rife with battle, bloodshed and bigotry.

As a life-long Russian River rat, it is understandable why Only Our Rivers Run Free would capture my heart, but I love The Town I Loved So Well because it reminds me of the few years of my childhood spent in Santa Rosa, California. I may have indeed left my heart in San Francisco where I was born, but Santa Rosa is the town I have loved so well because there, my soul was born. All the things I have come to love, I found when living in Santa Rosa. All what I imagine a good childhood to be, Santa Rosa is the backdrop, the canvass, if you will. I don’t remember the bad times, I am sure there were some. I only remember the happy times, the beauty, the simplicity of a time when being was joyful, innocent and safe.

About two weeks ago, the town I loved so well experienced a disaster on a grand scale. A fire – no, a firestorm – ravaged her neighborhoods, terrorized her citizens , destroyed her homes and sadly, took many of her lives. Those lives, of course, are her greatest losses. Today the fires still burn. My heart goes out to the families of the dozens who died. My heart goes out to the hundreds who have lost everything, but their lives. My heart goes out to the folks who have been working NON-STOP since October 9th, even in the midst of their own losses. My heart goes out to the town I loved so well.

On October 1, 1969, at around 10:00 pm, most were tucked into bed, I remember I was. I was just about to fall asleep when what seemed like someone picking up our house on Alvarado Avenue, shaking it like an Etch-It-Sketch and setting it back down caused me to fly out of my bed, terrorized. “It’s an earthquake,” my father shouted as he ran down the hall.  Afterwards, the whole neighborhood gathered into the middle of our little block that was my whole world. We suffered a significant disaster, but we were not alone.

I hope Santa Rosa knows she is not alone during this catastrophe. I hope she knows that anyone who lived there for any amount of time mourns with her, prays for her, worries for her. Pascal Mercier in Night Train to Lisbon wrote: We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” I know I speak for myself, but I hope Santa Rosa knows part of me has always stayed there, and I empathize with her suffering.

Just like after the earthquake, Santa Rosa will rebuild. It will be a long time before any normalcy returns, actually, life will never be like it was on October 8, 2017 in Santa Rosa. It will be different. I pray for Santa Rosa, as well as Napa, Lake County, and the other areas affected by these fires. I pray for my friend’s niece and her family who were airlifted off Atlas Peak leaving behind all her physical possessions. I pray for the families of the dead, their loss is irreplaceable, their grief unimaginable and, all I can say, you are not alone. Unfortunately, no amount of rebuilding will restore what you have lost.

I pray for those who lost everything but their lives. I pray for your children who have lost their precious things, their keepsakes, their comforts, their beds, all the things that made them feel safe. They have lost their worlds. I hope you know, you are not alone.

I pray for those who have been working non-stop trying to stop these monsters. Please know, as hundreds have said, written and shared, that your work is appreciated, your help invaluable, your fortitude comforting and your energy inexhaustible. I pray that you get rest, peace and comfort as well. All of us who do not live there now, but love Santa Rosa and her people, want you to know you are not alone.

Now the music’s gone but they carry on
For their spirit’s been bruised, never broken
They will not forget but their hearts are set
on tomorrow and peace once again
For what’s done is done and what’s won is won
and what’s lost is lost and gone forever
I can only pray for a bright, brand new day
in the town I loved so well.

Lyrics by Phil Coulter

Santa Rosa