I used to run. Not this attempt I call “running”, now. Real running. Real racing. Legs pumping, goal reaching, side-stitching powering forward. Definitely not the fastest. Certainly not the best, but I loved it.
There were fears I faced: not winning, not pleasing Coach Felty (whom I wanted to please like a father), not doing my best. The thing I feared more than these was the handoff; that part of the relay when it was your turn to hand the baton over to your team-mate. What if I dropped it? What if we lost precious seconds because of me?
We all have a handoff moment in our earthbound journey whether we run, or not. There comes a time when we pass what we know, what we learned, what we feel to those whose turn it is to carry on the race.
I remember when my father was on his last stretch of the track. I spent hours with him, caring for him, watching over him. He sat in a chair at the table, unable to find comfort, afraid to lie down. He wanted a cigarette in his hand and a piping hot cup of coffee in front of him to sip on. It was never hot enough and the cigarette was rarely puffed on. The weight of his sickness didn’t allow him to enjoy even these vices that used to bring him pleasure. I wanted him in these moments to speak to me. As I sang hymns to him in the dark, I waited for his words to me. They never came. He did teach me to play a domino game called Moon. To my shame, I can’t remember how to play it. I don’t know why it was ever important to him to teach me.
This thought came to me in the middle of the night, while I should have been sleeping. It nagged at me until I got up and dealt with it. I think we didn’t have a handoff moment. I think Daddy was more like someone in the crowd, cheering or a teammate, running along-side me to encourage me to do better. Daddy was a dream-chaser like me. He taught me that I could learn to do anything I wanted by reading a book or finding someone to instruct me. He taught me this by example. He also taught me to love God. I saw his struggles with being a christian. I know he wasn’t perfect. No one is, certainly not someone who loves life as much as Daddy did. There is always that fence waiting to be climbed, torn down, or simply sat on.
Being the control freak that I am, I want to take charge of my handoff moment. I want to tell my children now, while I am full of life and not distracted by pain or death some things that I need them to know.
- I love you. I love you all and I love you all the same. I know children think that is something parents just say, really having a favorite, but this is my truth. From the time I knew you were in my womb, I was thrilled. When they placed you in my arms, they placed part of my heart right there were I could touch and care for it.
- I know I made mistakes. I’m sorry. I’m also sorry that you will make mistakes with your own children. It is part of what makes us one of God’s creatures. I hope that you know that even so, I never wanted to do anything, say anything to hurt you.
- If you don’t learn anything else from me, I hope you learn this: God loves you. Yes. You will screw up and make a mess of things from time to time. It is never too late to turn to your Maker and ask for forgiveness. He is never further away than a prayer, a earnest cry.
- I tried to keep your ancestors alive for you through the stories I told. You may have tired of hearing them, but I hope you will remember. I hope that you will carry them forward like a treasured heirloom. Keep them and pass them down.
This is your baton. Hold tight to it while you run your race. Don’t forget to release it when it is time. Your children are standing there, panting with excitement, waiting for their turn. Their “track” may not be as easy as yours was. The world is a scary place. I don’t envy the environment they are being released to. Let them see that you will meet them where they are and that you will be there when it counts. I see you, standing there waiting for me. There are not any hands that I would want to pass my baton on to, more. God blessed me with three beautiful souls. I know you will run faster than me. That is why God put you where you are. A good coach always puts the fastest runner last. Now, go!
“…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus…” Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)
To others that may read this, other than my own children, I hope you take some thought about passing your own baton. Maybe there is someone’s forgiveness you need to ask. Maybe there is someone to whom you held a great love, but never told them. Maybe you know a soul that doesn’t know Jesus and your heart aches with the Spirit’s urging to speak to them, to share the story of your Savior.
Not long ago, my mother told me that she, like me, had waited for some word or instruction from my father. She honored his request to be cared for and to die at home. This was at great cost to her. In the 1980’s, hospice came about once a week. My father’s cancer was quick in its work and my father suffered much because there was no one there who was qualified to monitor his pain medicine. He was never put on morphine. His pain was excruciating and Momma did the best she could. They spent all their final time together. She never got the words she craved.
After his passing, she searched the house, going through books and papers, drawers, everywhere she thought he might have hidden a last letter to her. It was never found. It was never written.
I believe flowers are better appreciated by the living than by the dead. All the money we spend on funeral flowers to ease our own suffering could have just as easily be spent on flowers that they could have enjoyed. Imagine your loved one receiving a beautiful bouquet of their favorite flowers with a note written in your own hand. See, in your minds eye, them smile as they read your words, as they press their nose in to the soft, velvety petals knowing that they are loved.
We have the power to spread so much joy. I pray that we will all take the time to honor that gift while God lets us hold it. How do we best honor it? By giving it away.
“And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35 (NKJV)
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11 (NKJV)
The moon came a little closer. I think the man who lives there was mildly curious about what had been keeping me. My visits to spy on him have been more rare these days.
It is awing, is it not? This relationship we form with the light God formed in the nighttime sky? We gaze at him in ways we are not allowed to with his older brother, the sun. He seems to enjoy the attention and changes his look to spur us on in our beholding. Sometimes he glows with the color he borrowed from the sun. Sometimes he is blue, silver, or eerily white. When he is full of himself, he shows his smiling face and we smile back. He’s infectious that way.
For me, his appeal comes with the memories we have shared. You may feel the same. It’s like watching a movie that seems to have stolen bits of your life and played them out for all of the world to see. You cry, not because of the character’s woes, but because their misery has pricked you with memory’s sharp thorn.
*I see my love, lit with lunar glow, bowing his head towards mine. The fields are almost clear as day and my gown glows as if heavenly. What romance can not succumb to such a setting? What heart can help but beat a little faster?
*The ocean beats upon the shore. Waves try to reflect the moon. Water, ever-changing, distorts its image but the abstract is just as lovely. Stars twinkle and wink, hoping to distract my attention.
*Lying spread out flat on St. Augustine mattress. The blackness above letting bits and pieces of heaven’s glory spark above me. Lightening bugs float starlike above the earth, on the same plane as me. My friend, The Man on the Moon, grins as my mother calls me to come inside.
He has been companion to midnight walks, camping trips, solitary swims, and cries in the abyss. His surface reflects his surroundings and his shape nightly transforms. He is a lot like me, only he is silent, rock-hard, and strong. He remains true to us all whether we pay him any attention, or not.
I am happy he came a little closer the other night. I’ll try to be more faithful in my nocturnal visits and more grateful for the moonlit memories.