A Time to Show Up, A Time to Take Off

Dearest Rachel –

So, last night was the final Awana club meeting for the calendar year. There was also a get together of the Grief Share group that Cheryl was hosting at her place, and I didn’t want to miss that. So after checking with Daniel as to how he felt about serving at Sparks – to which he responded with ‘I don’t see why not’ about going and doing his thing there, helping with games and whatnot – we headed out to the Des Plaines campus, where I would check if I had any awards to put together before leaving him to his assignments and heading a couple of blocks over to meet with the rest of the group at Cheryl’s place.

It was, I suppose, a calculated risk, and it appears that I miscalculated. Just because Daniel claimed to be feeling fine didn’t mean he wasn’t still showing symptoms – indeed, I will occasionally have a coughing jag myself, like I did when we picked up dinner en route – and that scares people off.

But when we got to church, things seemed to be under control. I filled some of the other volunteers in on what had happened, gave Miss Joan the postcards she had requested, and, upon learning that no awards were to be distributed to clubbers that night (and therefore, I’d have nothing to prepare for them beforehand), I bid Daniel good luck as he headed upstairs to set up the games for the kids as the evening’s first activity, and headed off.

Cheryl doesn’t live that far from the campus, but you know my family ethos – if you’re not fifteen minutes early, you’re late. Besides, I’d never been there; there’s always the need for a little extra time to let you find your way, to say nothing of finding a parking spot. I was, admittedly, the first one there, but at least it wasn’t by much, as everyone assembled by a quarter till seven. Which was just as well; after starting and stopping my story several times, I realized I’d need to wait until everyone was there before telling it, or I’d be repeating myself over and over for the rest of the night.

Besides – as a cute aside – Cheryl got a number of comments and compliments about the fact that she had folded all of her napkins in the form of a Christmas tree, to which she claimed that it was simple enough for anybody to do. She then proceeded to demonstrate and teach us all how to do it, although I can guarantee that I’ve already forgotten most of the process.

As we gathered around the table (and I started to regret having had so much dinner so soon beforehand), I finally began to explain what happened on my trip. Everyone had known I was traveling – it was why I had missed the last two sessions, after all – but they had no word about how everything went so pear-shaped from the moment I stepped onto the ship. There were sympathetic noises about it, but as it turned out, I hadn’t been the only one struck down during that time. Several others at the table had gone through it (along with family members) over the last two or three weeks; Elise, in particular, had literally just returned to work a day or so previously from her own battle. Considering she’s half everyone else’s age, it should be no surprise that she seems to have recovered quite well from her ordeal.

There was a lot of talk about travel, as well, since I had effectively started the topic. Much was made of various people who had traveled to Israel (or were looking forward to doing so – I mentioned how Junior was trying to get together a tour group for this spring, but that had apparently fallen apart, both bureaucratically and numerically), and other trips folks had been on or would like to. Elise’s stories were of particular interest, as some of them came about due to the reason she was part of our group; as a member of a Gold Star police family, the honors bestowed upon law enforcement cut down in the line of duty effectively create a support group that basically cover the nation.

All fascinating stuff. But somewhere between the cream puffs and the chocolate cake, my phone rang. And while some people will turn off their ringer or say “Can I call you back?” that’s no more how I was raised than were I to make a habit of arriving somewhere late. I took the call.

It turns out that Daniel’s symptoms (which he still had, even as I do) were raising concerns among some individuals, and I was asked if I could pick him up and bring him home. I requested a few moments to finish what conversation I was in (as well as the food I’d been given) but agreed to be there shortly.

Now, you know that, as a rule, once he takes care of his duties, Daniel would sequester himself and read or watch something on his phone until it was time to go home, as he wasn’t particularly adept at dealing with the kids – in that way, he takes after me more than you. So, when I got there, he was sitting around in the lobby waiting, already separated from everyone else, so as to not be too much in contact with others. He was more than ready to go, if a little disappointed about having to do so. Anyway, we got in the car and headed home.

And that was basically our evening.

There’s that great passage in Ecclesiastes chapter three about there being a time and a place for everything that happens under the sun.

Obviously, it doesn’t cover every single aspect of life in its poetic flow, but I never really thought about the concept until this morning, as I’ve been going over the events of last night. It would seem that there is a time to show up, and a time to take off; a time to arrive, and a time to depart. Granted, that might all be covered in there being ‘a time to live, and a time to die,’ but this seems a bit less consequential, and more frequent. Or maybe it’s more like ‘a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.’ In any event, it seems I (and Daniel) misjudged the time.

Times certainly have changed, haven’t they, honey? My folks have this thing about the Gaithers, and their musical organization. One of the members of their vocal band was a rubber-faced fellow by the name of Mark Lowry, who was (is, I think) more of a comedian than a singer, although his performing career started with singing. He had a routine about how, when he was growing up, his father would make sure he was in church every Sunday without fail. Even if he was sick, his dad would respond that Mark ‘prove it’ by throwing up. Once he did, his dad would follow it up with, “There, don’t you feel better? Now, let’s go to church.”

That’s the sort of family I grew up in, for the most part (although a bit more so, what with Mom being an RN in her past – there was no fooling her, although there was also no need to ‘prove’ anything to her, either), and it’s the sort of ethic we both gave to Daniel as he grew up. It was the desire, the determination to do what was asked of us for His sake that we valued.

Now, that’s no longer the case. Powering through a time of weakness – especially a time of illness – isn’t considered so much of a good thing anymore. It’s something we have yet to understand and adapt to. Daniel, especially, has expressed displeasure at the ‘spirit of fear’ that seems to exist. But that’s how things are; we need to adjust to other people’s concerns, once we’re made aware of them. Sometimes, we will blunder on, unaware that what we are doing upsets someone else, and that’s excusable. But we can’t be the cause of someone else’s stumbling, if we can help it.

So we’re home again; Daniel continues to rest and recover, and I’m here, working at my computer as I do. Hopefully, this will all blow over soon enough.

Until then, honey, wish us luck. We’re going to need it.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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