This was the description offered by a coworker yesterday, and I couldn’t have agreed more. After a six-day stretch of time off through New Year’s Day, I was pleasantly surprised when I scanned my inbox upon returning to work Wednesday morning and finding literally nothing of consequence. That peaceful feeling lasted approximately 5.2 seconds, just until three different people sent three separate emails asking me to look into the very same problem.
And so the week began, ending with a frantically paced Friday during which I was either on the phone or in meetings so much that I was literally tired of speaking by day’s end. And I’d done so much meeting and phone-calling that I’d failed to complete much actual work. I guess it’s to be expected. There’s always a nice little lull over the holidays, and then everything kicks back into high gear. Having been through my share of corporate change and uncertainty, when I start to feel overwhelmed, I always try to remind myself that busyness is a good problem to have.
While racing around the house one morning, trying to get out the door and on the road to the office, I opened up the garage so that I could start my car and get it comfortably warmed up before getting in. The view of the sunrise through the garage door stopped me in my tracks. I felt God tap me on the shoulder, saying, “Stop all this hurrying and rushing around, or you might miss the really good stuff.”
Perspective. Just have to keep it all in perspective.
In the middle of this three-day week, I received news about my 90 year-old Aunt Shirley. I last saw her just before Thanksgiving, when I thought I’d be saying my last good-byes. But upon arrival at her nursing home then, we happily found a bounced-back version of my dear aunt. Unfortunately, I now know that this was one of her last really good days. A cousin, her oldest daughter informed us that Aunt Shirley has been dwindling ever since, and especially since Christmas. She spent a few days in the hospital and is now back in the nursing home, but on hospice care.
My sister, niece and I went to visit Aunt Shirley on Thursday after work. Having watched my own parents and father-in-law go through their end days in the past four years, I was prepared to find my little spitfire of an aunt fading and barely conscious. She was lying down when we arrived, but she was surprisingly lucid and conversational. When we came through the door, her face lit up and she exclaimed, “Oh, I was just thinking about all of you!” Even in her diminished state, she managed to convey such exuberance at the sight of us. She has always made me feel so good, and even now continued to make me feel so warm, welcome, and so unconditionally loved. She did however admit that she was tired. So extremely tired. The last time we visited, she had explained she was certain that the end had come, but God must not have been ready for her yet. And she was glad for that, because she didn’t feel ready to go just yet. In stark contrast to just a few short weeks ago, this time she readily admitted that she is ready to go to Heaven now.
Even though her admission brought immediate tears to my eyes, I was sympathetic to her need to stop fighting age and disease. And I couldn’t help but admire her confidence and lack of fear at the prospect of dying. Aunt Shirley’s light is undoubtedly fading, but she knows where she is going and she’s excited to get there. There was some consolation for me as I imagined how happy my mom and Aunt Elaine will be when their sister joins them in Heaven.
Aunt Shirley remained relatively talkative during our short visit, and as we chatted, a highlight reel of memories ran through my mind. She was always such a nurturing person, quick to offer hugs and praise, and usually addressing others with terms of endearment. In my younger days, Aunt Shirley often invited my sister and I to spend a few summer nights at her house, so we could hang out with our cousins. My sister and I reminded her of those times, reminiscing about how much we loved those visits … and especially the homemade chocolate sauce she always made to accompany the ice cream that was always, always offered. We told her how much we appreciated the skills she taught us (or at least tried to teach,) like knitting, crocheting, and sewing. She always demonstrated for us the joy that can be found in such simple, humble pursuits, such as gardening, cooking and baking, keeping a home, and taking care of a family. We told her we’d never forget the way she spoiled us. She smiled when she heard this and asked, “Did I spoil you?”
That response epitomized my aunt’s personality. She has a spirit of generosity and has rarely given it a second thought. When she leaves this world, she will be dearly missed. But her departure will be one that leaves others smiling through their tears. Her shining example of a life well lived will remain, and I only hope that I can follow it at least half as well as she has.