The stories of death (my friend, Mike's, mom; Father Brian on Martha's Vineyard) and unexpected twists of fate (Randy's stroke) seep in each week. Sometimes they pack an overwhelming punch, like the five teens who were killed on Highway 89, just outside of Williston last week by a man driving the wrong way, on purpose, and at high speed. Five young lives extinguished in an instant, sending ripples of disbelief and pain out into the entire state of Vermont.
Often when I hear of a death I want to know the person's name. I want to know their first and last name, so that when I pray for them I have a sense of who they were when they were here. Father Brian Murdoch, the openly-gay Episcopal priest who was as big as a bear and who ministered to prisoners. He did the thing: he didn't worship Jesus; he followed the example, and that's my understanding of what this is about. Worshipping anything is easy; following the tricky, potentially treacherous lead of a man who ministered to everyone on the margins of the world, a person who chose humility and poverty and kindness...that's what faith is and Father Brian lived it.
But I didn't sit down to write about death this morning. I actually didn't sit down at all. I went outside because it's unusually warm for October right now. And the stars and the moon are shining at this early hour. I stood in the grass and looked over at the cemetery and asked my spirit friends to keep me humble, to keep me on the right path. To help me use this life in meaningful ways.
It's good to start the day with a kind of full-body prayer.
Because, you know, once you get the coffee brewing and the kid out the door to school and the dog to the vet and the laundry folded and everything starts humming, it's hard to remember that we came here to manifest some beautiful things. That we each have gifts, treasures, really, to be shared with the rest of humanity.
And that our days should be spent, at least in part, in the discovery and utilization of those gifts.
You'll hate me for saying this, but we actually didn't come here to text and tweet and Instagram and Facebook every move we make, and I think the deaths of people we have loved remind us of this: we tend to be fritterers, us humans. We fritter away a lot of our hours doing things that don't matter much, and then when we don't have that time anymore and we don't have the people we love anymore, we regret the hours we wasted; we regret that we didn't pay closer attention.
There's something quite curious happening in this house right now. Coco decided, last week, to take a stab at being on a cooking show, so we made a video and filled out the forms and in two days she received a call and then she had a Skype interview and now, for the past few days, she has been cooking like mad, with her wonderful Auntie Margaret who owns a restaurant and is the head chef there. There are a bunch more things the casting people want to see, and Coco has been living and breathing this idea for a week now.
And Brett. Brett is finally going to Nashville to make a record. Which, if you know Brett it's kind of funny because he's been in the music world for decades, and no one waits decades to make a record. Not anymore, anyway. I think it's great. I think it's refreshing to actually wait...that Brett has waited until he's there, with good songs and the right people. To do something well, to have honed a craft through decades of practice, is to be admired.
So the other two people in this house are standing on the diving board and I feel like I've become a kind of talent manager, filling out forms and creating videos and organizing and communicating with all of the other players in these scenarios.
It is quite the thing: to stand witness to these two people who are bravely moving in the direction of their dreams.
But more than just watching them move through these processes, I am watching the community of support that is building up around them, and that's what really takes my breath away.
Coco's friends, who are cheering her on. The way her friend, Ellie, got in touch with her the minute her Skype interview ended. The way the principal at her school sent me an email wishing her well. The way our beloved Ben, chef extraodinaire, asked, "Does she need a Skype consultation?" The way Auntie Margaret stopped everything in her very busy life and spent two days in the kitchen with Coco.
The way everyone Brett knows has responded to the news that he's going to Nashville to make a record. It's funny, of course, the whole, "it's about time" thing. But it's also beautiful, how much everyone cares. How much everyone is cheering him on. How much everyone loves his music and admires his talent.
It's really something, watching the two of them, standing on the edge of whatever it is that's coming next. Great things, fun things, I'm certain: an opportunity to be on a television show with other kids who are great cooks, with professional chefs giving feedback; the creation of an album many, many people will listen to, songwriting with others in Nashville, a tour around the country. Who knows? All of that and more, I'm sure. Brett and Coco are two of the most talented people I know.
But I recognize the beauty in this very moment right now. As the thing is being built and the friends and family are gathering around. This is what it's all about, the very best of humanity...being present for the people we love and believing in their dreams. While we are alive and our dreams tap ceaselessly at our hearts and minds...to lift each other up, to cheer-on, hug, kiss, cook, sing together and to watch those we love move, with grace and purpose, to the places they were born to go. An honor and a blessing. Amen.