Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Same Place

April 10:

As I travel to and from the Nursing Home to visit Mother, I try to be open for the teachings. And those teachings abound. Once upon a time, I thought I knew a lot. But rather at this season of my life, I am only just beginning to learn. These days, I do not want to miss a thing.

On this day, I backed Mother in her wheel chair into the elevator. That way, she views out into the hall, as all people are supposed to do. I try never to push her into the elevator with only a view of the back wall. That's what you would do to freight. It doesn't quite fit for a precious human load.

An elderly man in a wheelchair peered inside the elevator and asked if there was room for him too. To which I replied: "Of course." That quick ride between 2 floors on a fairly speedy elevator permitted a teaching that resonated into the world beyond.

But first, a little background: I am intrigued with those disconnections that we/I place upon people in Nursing Homes. I wonder who they are. I wonder what stories are woven into the delicate yet robust patterns of their lived experience. I wonder if the lights are on and somebody is still at home in those ageing bodies. I usually speak, because I am intrigued. I try to engage. Some are startled. There seems an unspoken rule of not speaking to people who appear infirm in a physical sense in Nursing Homes. I intend to break that rule as many times as I can.

So I ask this elderly man: "What is your name?" He replies a name I had not heard since my childhood, some 50 years ago. Come to find out, his son and I were Kindergarten classmates. I remember the elderly man's name as a fairly prominent and upstanding name in the community. I can retrieve no details and the details are not important.

What occurred to me through this brief interaction between 2 floors is that we are all going to the same place. (I could begin each of the following: "If we are lucky.") We are born. We grow up. Sometimes we marry. Many of us have families. Those children are raised and they go about their own lives. Many of them choose to have their own families. We age. Our bodies lose the robustness of our youths. We become physically frail. Those bodies are not needed any longer for our earthly journeys. Of course, we have our ways of viewing and making meaning of these things. But, yes, indeed, we are all going to the same place.

I saw this little teaching in that outer world too. We build houses, sometimes of grand scale. We build walls tall and stout to protect us from the vulnerabilities in that outer world and from our own frailties. We surely would not even want to be vulnerable in any way in this society. Yet regardless of the dimensions of one's home and material possessions, the above facts stay the same. We are all going to the same place.

You could call it a great equalizer. Oh, yes, we could choose to run from that equalizer. We could also sit quietly and humbly in its presence. I sit in awe at the beauty of these things.

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