Sunday, December 31, 2017

Purple Plans

Every New Year's Eve I break out the cookbooks and choose some recipes for a lovely dinner. Just me and my husband. It's a tradition I've maintained for many years. We march around all year long to other people's drums so I like to end it with a day in the kitchen "creating".

Once dinner is over it's usually a movie or some sort of music. This year Ron gave me a DVD of a Prince concert from his infamous vault. It was from 1985 and included many of the Purple Rain songs. I watched it in awe of Prince's artistry and energy. Made my "creativity" in the kitchen seem like small potatoes.

Prince has been with me all through my adulthood and I figure that he should see me out of this life as well.

Friends laugh when I talk about my funeral and what I want. My friend Mary told me many years ago she would bring the mac salad when I started talking about my wishes. I don't think that's a depressing subject at all - planning one's funeral, that is. It's a great way to think about your life and what is important to you.

My friend Kathleen has been assigned DJ duties and knows that Prince is on the top of the list. We saw Prince together in 2004 and it was one of the defining moments of our friendship.

When I was watching the 1985 Prince tonight in what some would argue was the height of his career, I was reflecting on his life and how he always seemed ageless and almost immortal to me. Like he would somehow transcend space and time because of his spiritual presence in my life and others.

He performed a couple of the songs I want played at my funeral: Let's Go Crazy to start the service (with everyone in the aisles dancing, led by the young people in my life who already know that's their responsibility) and Purple Rain to close. In the middle, I want Nothing Compares 2U played (the live version).

I miss Prince's presence on this planet. Though I really feel that he left so much of himself behind that he *has* transcended space and time. His music fills me with joy and energy that is at a premium in my life given my chronic illness. His lyrics make me contemplate a higher power. I live vicariously through his phenomenal dance and guitar skills. He feels like a present-day Mozart who lifts me up and inspires me as well.

At the end of the calendar year I do spend time reflecting on not so much where I was but where I'm going. Physical life is short. Prince's sure was. What will I leave behind that others will find inspiring and joyful? What memories will I provide that will lift others up? Will my presence inspire others to think about their own lives when they reflect on New Year's Eve after I'm gone?

I don't think you have to be a rock god to make a difference in people's lives. Or laugh in the purple rain. You only have to plant seeds of joy and introspection. And that's enough. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Finding Joy at Christmas

It's Christmas Eve and I'm sitting by the tree and the fire drinking my annual glass of Bailey's shortly before midnight. My husband is in bed - expecting to have to rise early to clear snow from the driveway. It's December, after all.

We spent the afternoon at my in-laws celebrating Christmas and the engagement of my brother-in-law who is marrying a great woman. She and I are two extroverts who hit it off immediately and I was in tears when I hugged her today as I welcomed her to the sister-in-laws club. 

My father-in-law returned home from rehab two days ago and will turn 89 next week. My mother-in-law is 92 and going strong with an attitude that defies age. 

I told the story of my engagement there tonight. It was 30 years ago tonight that my husband proposed to me in their living room. The rest of the family had gone to midnight mass and we had stayed behind. When they all returned with expectant smiles, I excitedly stuck out my left hand and we all jumped up and down with joy. It was one of those magical moments in my life that I will never forget.

The state of our country has been a source of great sadness to me. We are living through a White House that denies science and truth, denigrates our common humanity, and puts us at risk for war with a complete lack of diplomacy and detente. 

I constantly search for a light in the storm. Oftentimes I find it in the pastoral care work I do at my church. Or in the mentoring of amazing young women that makes me hopeful for the country's future. 

Tonight I found it in both the joy of a new marriage that is beginning, and the dedication to joy and quiet resolve that my church fosters not just at Christmas but all year long. 

When I read at our Christmas Eve service tonight, I choked up at the end of the poem my minister asked me to read. I share it with you here on this peaceful night and pray that you find the hope you need to carry on. 

There IS love and joy in the world. We just have to be ready to receive it.

“First Coming ” by Madeleine L’Engle

He did not wait until the world was ready,
Till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
And prisoners called out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
Turned water into wine. He did not wait.

Till hearts were pure. In joy he came
To a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
He came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
To heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
The Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
To raise our songs with joyful voice,
For to share our grief, to touch our pain
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!