My heart sings
When I was 14 years old I spent the summer at my cousin’s ranch. I worked summer fallow with a tractor and field cultivator. I worked on machinery, preparing for harvest, and I drove a grain truck during harvest. I left home barely able to handle a small jeep in an open field and came home a couple of months later confident enough to back a grain truck precisely enough to dump grain into the auger and return to the field for another load. I also developed a deep respect for my cousin, who wasn’t a man of very many words, but who had strong opinions about farming and living a quality life on the land. The next summer I returned with a brand-new driver’s license in my pocket and a determination to learn even more about how the ranch was run.
I grew up with a slew of cousins on both my mother’s and father’s side of the family. Some were closer than others. But it is clear to me that my journey from childhood to adulthood was deeply influenced by the cousin who welcomed me onto his ranch and gave me meaningful work to do while he mentored me in the process of becoming a responsible adult.
Yesterday, I was a bit emotional as I watched our daughter make her way through the airport security area with our grandson. We had enjoyed a wonderful visit and it had been so good to see them. But we live a long ways apart. She has a husband and a home in Japan and they had generously given us weeks of their time to support us as her mother recovered from a major health event. It was time for them to go. But they were heading to one more adventure before they board the plane for Japan on Sunday.
They took a short flight to Denver and from Denver flew to Seattle. From there it was a nearly two-hour bus ride to Mount Vernon, where our son lives. There, yesterday afternoon, our four grandchildren were together as cousins for the first time. Our three-month-old won’t have a conscious memory of the meeting, but it is likely that the other three will long remember the day the baby came to visit.
As I looked at the pictures that our daughter and daughter-in-law sent of the four together, I thought of a concept that hasn’t been at the top of my consciousness for several years. In 2005, we prepared an application for a clergy renewal grant from the Lily Foundation. One of the questions on the application form was “What would make your heart sing?” At the time it was a challenge for me to come up with an answer. I knew that there were things I had wanted to do for a long time that I hadn’t figured out how to accomplish. We have dear friends in Australia. Though they have made several trips to the USA over the years, I wanted to spend some quality time with them in their own country. I wanted time to explore the Canadian Rockies and British Columbia. I’d been there as a child and youth and we had visited British Columbia for a writer’s conference, but there was so much more that I wanted to see. A list of things I wanted to do was fairly easy to produce. But the question of what would make my heart sing persisted. What I finally realized was that what my heart wanted was to travel with our adult children. Our son was married and our adult daughter was single. I wanted them to remain close to each other. I wanted our new daughter-in-law to be known and loved by our daughter.
We got lucky. The grant was approved and in the summer of 2006 we traveled in Canada and were able to take a marvelous trip with our adult children to Australia where we met up with our friends and toured Tasmania, Central Australia, Melbourne and Sydney. My heart sang as I witnessed the close relationships between friends we had made before we had children and our adult children. Another generation of deep connections was forming.
Yesterday, as I looked at the pictures of our four grandchildren together, even though their meeting occurred over a thousand miles away, I know my heart was singing.
It sounds simple and obvious when I sit down to write, but the thing that makes my heart sing is love.
I’ve been very fortunate in love. I grew up in a loving and caring family. I met my wife early in my life. We dated as teens and grew up together. We had a wonderful adventure of being students together, living in a big city and meeting new friends from around the world. We learned to work together and have shared our careers for more than four decades. We have been blessed with two amazing and wonderful children who have brought incredible joy to us. They, in turn, have become parents of four equally amazing children.
Although love lost and found and deep tragedy may make for good romance novels, in real life, living surrounded by love is a deep and meaningful treasure and I’ve been blessed with a wealth of that kind of love.
I go to bed thoroughly tired this days. I never am quite caught up with my work. I am disappointed in a few things that I do. I don’t practice enough to keep up my end of the brass ensemble in which I play. I don’t make enough calls to those who are sick and shut in. I haven’t sorted out some critical business of a nonprofit board on which I serve. My job performance is not up to my own standards. And yet, I have been surrounded by love. Even when I’m not at my best, I have been blessed with such unconditional love.
I know what makes my heart sing. And it is singing!