Reflections by Jerry Webber

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Unexpected Graces

This week I watched another birthday come and go. At a certain point years ago I stopped getting charged up about my birthday. I find them good excuses to treat myself to some small indulgence, perhaps, but the day sweeps in and out without feeling much different than most other days.

The "celebration" this week was even more underplayed. I realized a couple of weeks ago that on my birthday I'd be sitting in a chemotherapy chair at Methodist Hospital. That's a sober realization, especially when folks ask, "What are you doing special for your birthday?" Well, I guess chemotherapy is special in its own way.

So this week I determined to enter the day alert to experience the gifts in the birth day. I wanted to notice the unexpected graces in the day. I didn't have any idea what I'd find. Frankly, chemotherapy from the previous day left me feeling drained and out-of-sorts, so the morning of my birthday I wasn't too sure that I'd notice anything to redeem the day.

The first grace came in the chemo chair itself. I slept through the first part of the infusion. Then for the last two hours of the treatment I watched The Natural with my daughter on the small television set up in the chemotherapy cubicle. It's a favorite of our family, one that we return to again and again -- a movie more about failure and flawed character and redemption than about baseball -- and she had wanted to watch it again for a few weeks. We watched it together, recited the lines from memory, laughed some, and cried some. We talked about the life-themes in the movie, and the ways the movie touched us. They were golden moments.

The second grace came later in the day, when a package of used books I had ordered last week arrived at my door. For me, ripping into a package of books is something akin to Christmas morning for a 10 year-old, so that in itself would have been a real grace.

But the unexpected grace came when I laid the books out in front of me and slowly went through them one by one. Online I had purchased a couple of poetry books by William Stafford, one of my favorite poets. I paid $.01 for each of them -- that's right, a penny -- plus shipping. So I was thoroughly surprised when I opened one of them and found Stafford's signature on the title page! I immediately knew it was Stafford's hand, as I have seen some of his hand-written poems. It was a thrill, a real serendipity.

And then this Stafford poem from the book:

Waiting for God

This morning I breathed in. It had rained
early and the sycamore leaves tapped
a few drops that remained, while waving
the air's memory back and forth
over the lawn and into our open
window. Then I breathed out.

This deliberate day eased
past the calendar and waited. Patiently
the sun instructed shadows how to move;
it held them, guided their gradual defining.
In the great quiet I carried my life on,
in again, out again.

[Passwords, p. 36]

1 comment:

Dianne Pulsipher said...

Happy Birthday Jerry. I often think that you and the thoughts you share are a gift to me and my spiritual journey. You and your chemo journey are in my prayers.