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Lessons in life: being grateful for what we’ve got

May 24th, 2004 · 4 Comments

In addition to Lisa William’s kayak excursion, this morning I also woke up while reading Lenn Pryor’s post on Lessons in Life From Two Cats:

I stood by and watched as a 6′ 2″ grown man with children balled uncontrollably in my driveway. He had lost a friend of many years and it was if his own child lie there. I tried to comfort him, I didn’t know what to do. I just let him have his moment with his friend. I had a hard time not crying myself it was all too much pain. So much pain, suffering, and anger had interrupted my beautiful saturday afternoon and it was almost too much to bear. After a while he asked for a box to take his friend home. We got him one and a towel to wrap his little body in. He carried him back across the street to his party, I went inside shaking.

I left his post remembering his admonition and encouragement:

Two cats reminded me today that we can lose people we love in a moments notice and that we should treasure them everyday. As hokey as it sounds, two cats reminded me to love everyone and everything around me for the suffering of the world can be too hard to bear. Compassion and friendship matters more than anything.

If this was a heavy post … apologies. Go hug your animals and look them in the eye and connect sentient being to sentient being. For that matter go hug anyone that you care for and have a good sunday.

Then in the afternoon I came into the house, after working outside, to get my wallet before going to the grocery store. As is my habit, while stopping by my desk, I took a look at my aggregator, taking a moment to read Jay McCarthy’s blog.

Jay titles his posts in creative ways, and I find it’s a bit of a game to try to determine his source of inspiration: music, culture, literature, news, someone else’s post, occasionally something I’ve read or written… But soon after I began reading Fire, Fire, House on Fire, I realized that he was not making any kind of cute or clever reference to someone else’s life:

It is 7:08 AM on Sunday, May 23rd 2004. I am sitting in my car behind my burning house. Just about two hours ago my house was struck by lighting and I woke up to the sound of the fire alarms. Although, at the time I did not know about the lighting.

Soon I am in shock also, and my momentary trip into the house for my wallet takes longer than I had thought. Although I haven’t talked a lot with Jay in person, we have had some blog dialogue, both silly and serious. His posts have been a frequent topic of conversation in our home these past few months. We are fond of him in our family. When we had dinner with Lenn the other night, I asked the girls to name bloggers they knew, and the first name off of their lips was “Jay”.

It is now 5:25 PM and I am sitting in my cousin’s room at my aunt’s house. The whole top two floors of my house are gone. The rest of the house is flooded and damaged by smoke. I went into my room to sift around a bit and managed to take out my passport and my other computer from about a foot of debris–ash and soot. #

After some wandering around, Amanda came over and we went to the mall so I could get new clothes. It is very strange, because right now I could hold everything I own on my person.

The closest I’ve come to something like this happened when our van caught fire last summer. I remember calling Ted from my cell phone to tell him “The van is on fire.” Yes, I tried to say it as calm as I could. I did feel mostly calm. But it was strange. Strange to stand there on the sidewalk with Abigail and watch our van burn. Strange to wonder what would have happened if I had kept my head turned a few moments more or decided to keep driving despite the smoke. Strange to think how easily our lives could have ended in an ordinary way, while driving the van to the grocery store with my little girl. Abigail still talks about it. For a while she and her sister would point to pictures in the newspaper saying “This is what we’re going to buy when our new van catches on fire…”

Eventually I took my wallet and went to the grocery store. In our new van. By myself. I felt sorry and sad for Jay, imagining what it must be like for him and his family to lose their home. To lose possessions.

Even now, before it has even really set in and before I’ve had a chance to fully comprehend what happened I’m thinking of ways I may run my life differently. Silly things like, maybe it isn’t so important to save the box that my Apple computer came in, or maybe I should just read books at a library rather than saving them so that they rot away on a shelf. I feel a very New-Age-lame feeling about the impermanence of material possessions.

I’ve written about my struggles with my faith. How sometimes I’m not sure if God exists. At least that’s how I can feel. I’ve got my doubts. I’ve got more gripes than gratitude at times.

But this morning, on this sunny Sunday, after reading Lenn and Lisa’s posts, sharing their slices of life, feeling grateful for them, I said, “Thank you God that I have these friends.”

This afternoon, after reading Jay’s post, I said, “Thank you God that my friends are alive.”

Tags: journal

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bob V // May 24, 2004 at 7:33 am

    Even the prospect of loss is too much to bear–isn’t it? That is my feeling. http://www.geocities.com/bobvis/cheeku.html tells the story of my dog dying when I was in high school. Though he would be about 20 years old now, I’m still not over it.

    I’ve made some life decisions accordingly. Everything I own can fit into my car. With ownership comes attachment. With attachment comes an inevitable loss. With loss comes sorrow.

    I also don’t like to develop relationships that will lead to my missing a person. My goal is to enjoy interacting with a person when they are available but to be unaffected by their absense.

    I often get criticized for this philosophy. Many people say that it means I don’t want to love.

  • 2 The Binary Circumstance // May 25, 2004 at 12:09 am

    Sometimes Our Love Surprises Us

    Julie Leung links to her friend, Lenn Pryor, who write about witnessing a man’s grief over the loss of his cat. I stood by and watched as a 6′ 2″ grown man with children balled uncontrollably in my driveway. He

  • 3 Julie Leung: Seedlings & Sprouts // May 25, 2004 at 1:26 am

    Sometimes our love surprises us

    So wrote Chip Gibbons in a piece inspired by Lenn’s story that I linked, a piece describing his own experiences of love, loss and pets. I am grateful for his insight. If big, strong grown men cried more often, perhaps…

  • 4 Julie // May 25, 2004 at 1:44 am

    Thanks, Bob. I’m sorry about your dog. That’s a sad story. Thanks for sharing. It is true that with loss comes sorrow. Perhaps I’ll write more about that later…thanks.