Shedding

The streets are littered with leaf-confetti and I watch as earth readies herself for this shedding.

This slow peeling away reveals the beauty underneath–until all that is left is naked vulnerability. We shed our lives this way–layer after layer, year by year.

I am reminded of this by a chance encounter with a neighbor. He is there, in those last days of shrugging off the years.

I found him on his front porch on my way to the bus stop. He likes to sit there, just take in the day. I knew his health has been declining–have chatted with him about strokes and doctors and such. This day, he had more news.

He approached me, unsteady on his feet but determined to close this gap between us. I held Lucy Mae firm on her leash, holding breath as he traversed uneven ground.

We exchanged greetings and he made over my girl, who tried to jump up to kiss him despite shortened leash.

Then he got to it.

“The doctors tell me I have a blood disorder. There’s nothing they can do about it. My blood makes too many red blood cells and thickens up so much that it can’t get to my brain.”

This 91 year old war veteran’s jaw quivered as he made this bold statement. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the movement in the air around us– leaves drifting from the oak in his yard, floating leisurely to the ground.

Shedding.

“Did they put you on blood thinner? Isn’t there something they can do?”

He shook his head and responded as if talking about the weather.

“There’s nothing they can do.”

I looked into his eyes and saw no fear there. Saw the beauty in this naked vulnerability.

“So,” I whispered, “You are just waiting for the end.”

He held my gaze.

“Listen, I’m ready for the end. My wife died six years ago and life hasn’t been the same since. I’m ready to be with her again.”

I swallowed, held Lucy Mae’s leash tighter.

“Well…that will be nice then…”

“My daughter’s coming from Kansas this week. We’ll talk about what we’re going to do.”

He gestured to his house and yard, moved his hand as if wiping it all away.

Shedding.

I heard the school bus arrive at the mouth of our neighborhood…squeaking brakes and protesting metal. Soon, the children were abreast, young voices everywhere. Jeffrey came alongside and Lucy Mae let him know how much she missed him.

I just stood there. Rooted. Lost for words.

He did too.

Then he smiled.

“One good thing,” his smile takes on an ornery twist. “My niece runs a mortuary. I won’t have to worry about that.”

With that, he turned his back and slowly made his way over the rough grass back to his porch. I watched, made sure he wouldn’t need me…then waved my goodbye as we took our leave.

We walk home amidst swirling leaves. The crisp fall wind carries these light bodies like kites, and I am shed of all distractions.

I am aware of the sky, so blue…of how the wind kisses my cheeks…the scent of leaves giving up chlorophyll…

I am wondering how it is to know that death is soon forthcoming.

This is the evidence of a life well-lived: When the shedding reveals beauty. When everything else is stripped away and God’s glory is laid bare for all eyes to see.

My dear neighbor is preparing to shed his earthly body and take on another form of beauty. Don’t you know that the saints are rejoicing? Don’t you know that the angels are preparing the loveliest of songs for his welcome?

The leaves blowing on the breeze carry this message today. I am grateful for these wind-whisperings, for they remind me to be present–to be here now.

For the shedding continues in me as well.

For more on contemplation, visit us over at High Calling Blogs for our latest book club discussion.

Comments

  1. says

    Beauty unleashed in the words that find their way onto the keyboard from you heart… What a stunning portrayal….

    I love what you write. It stirs my soul.

    Love ya much!

  2. says

    I’ve been contemplating life and death these last few weeks. Your words capture emotions I hadn’t been skilled enough to voice.

    My friend’s funeral was this weekend. While Jesus called her home far too soon, when we gathered to celebrate her life we witnessed a life well-lived. It was just as you said: “This is the evidence of a life well-lived: When the shedding reveals beauty. When everything else is stripped away and God’s glory is laid bare for all eyes to see.”

    God holds both the shedding and rebirth, life and death. When viewed through the lens of eternity both reveal His glory.

    Thanks, once again, for giving voice to the stirrings of my soul.

  3. says

    Lovely…we had a discussion with my hubby’s 91 year old mother yesterday about her being ready to die…and she is really very healthy…it was good for our girls to hear her discuss it as we sat in Starbuck’s drinking our favorites listening to the rain hit the metal roof…a thing of beauty listening to her talk about life, her death to be and her husband’s death. Now that my hubby and I are in our 50’s we actually realize how much faster that day is approaching….perhaps…we never know…grand that we know “it is well with my soul”….brings great comfort

  4. says

    Laura,
    I sat here reading your touching post to my husband and could hardly get through it – quivery voice and holding back tears.
    You are such a writer!
    My 89 year old Dad is also nearing the end. His too has been a life well lived. They are the ones who point us homeward.
    We are heading to the rehab center to visit him now. So I will be late with my book comment, but I promise to get one up (I still have to read my chapter!). I was convicted by your answer to my comment and vowed to finish the book. See you this evening…

  5. says

    Like the brilliant falls leaves, dazzling in beauty, is a life well lived and your words to express that shedding. Having my father pass into eternity last year your words have touched me deeply. Thank you.

  6. says

    you have written this so well, and it is such a moving experinece that you have shared. a wonderful thing for him to come to you to say goodbye, to have that eye contact and words between the two of you and with God.

    yes, we are interconnected. i feel that a little bit of me is going with him.

  7. says

    OK–I need my kleenex! This was beautiful. I want to give your neighbor a hug! Thank you for your words today. And, for your sweet comments on my blog.

    Love you!
    Susan

  8. says

    Very sweet Laura.

    I attended a friend’s mom’s funeral this afternoon.
    She was 92. It was a beautiful celebration of her life.
    She loved the Lord so much. I know she is loving heaven and being with Jesus.

    Your friend will too!

    Love you Laura!

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