It’s funny how such innate objects, can sometimes bring back a flood of memories. Just this morning, I was boiling water so I could blanche some tomatoes for a batch of homemade pizza sauce. As I lifted them out of the boiling water and dropped them into the waiting bowl of ice water in our kitchen sink, I thought of George. I could just picture him standing at my old kitchen stove, stirring the giant pan of salsa that we’d spent hours making. It was the first time ever that I’d put zucchini in my salsa. I didn’t have the heart to tell him, I didn’t think I was going to like it in there. We spent the day laughing, chopping, and canning.
As I reached my hands down in the ice cold water, I gently squeezed the tomatoes, removing the parts that I didn’t want in my sauce. For a minute I saw his hands, shaky with old age, performing the same task that I was now doing.
He struggled to hold the knife steady, but still he pressed on to complete the process. You see George could see the end result, to what we were doing. He knew it was going to be wonderful. I’m certain he could picture the look on our loved ones faces, when we presented them with a jar of our homemade, homegrown salsa. As I sit here writing, in a completely different house than George and I were in, I find myself thinking of how quickly things can change. That day, almost two years ago, we were in my kitchen of 15 years. Sometimes looking back, I am amazed at just how much has transformed in my life. I believe at certain times we are like the tomato, and God will let us get into a little “hot water” so to speak, to peel away the impurities that are present in us. Once we have cooled down, and they have been smoothed away, He uses what’s left to make something wonderful.
Although I don’t understand a lot of the situations I have previously faced, I can certainly look back and see how they made me just who I am. I’m not there yet, but I am constantly becoming. Becoming wiser, becoming braver, becoming kinder, just becoming… well a little more of who I’m made to be each day.
So… let’s take the story back to George. The first memory I have of the man is probably when I was in about the 7th grade, he would volunteer at his daughter’s sports events. Honestly a lot of years passed without a thought of old George, then one day God saw fit to place us back in each others lives through my connection with his daughter. Honestly, anytime I saw the man, his face would light up. I don’t know why, but he loved me. It’s one of the very few relationships that I’ve never had to question, does this person like me? Nothing was required to be his friend, except for being his friend.
I’m told the man that I knew wasn’t always the same. He went through many stages in his life, as most of us do. I remember his daughter telling me about the day she came home and found him on his knees dedicating his life to Christ. From that day on, he began transforming into the man I knew and loved. Sometimes in life, it takes a good strong “Shake” to wake us up and turn us towards what’s important. I don’t know the life story of my sweet old friend, but I know he was loved. I know even at the end of his life, he pointed his family towards God. At the end of the day he was just as human as the rest of us. He had something that some of us seek, some of us have found, and some of us will refuse to acknowledge. He had peace, the kind of peace that can only come from one place. He was able to laugh even when he knew the end was near.
Life tends to take us down some unfamiliar roads. Some of those roads are terribly hard and sad. The thing is, sad can’t last forever. You have to keep moving, and keep your eyes fixed on the things that truly matter. I talk a lot about being a light for others, but what about yourself. What if you find yourself in a dark hole with no one willing to be a light for you? What then, my friends? In my life, I have found that the very act of reaching out and lifting someone else while in the middle of the dark yourself, makes a little spark of light inside of your own heart.
One of my coworkers, said to me last week, “We are possibly a third of the way through our lives.” I don’t really feel like I’m that old. I don’t want to be a third of the way to through. I’ve got so much I want to accomplish. Write a book, travel, raise a family, change the world…. I know, I’m not asking for much. There are many things I long for in my own personal life that may never come to pass. As my friend and office mate pointed out though, “we better start living!”
More often than not, we let opportunity pass us by because we are tired, busy, or just flat out lazy. I have heard stories of George being a butcher, a dad, a husband, and there was even a rumor I think I overheard about him being in the circus. Seems to me like he really knew how to live. I’ve made so many mistakes in my life. Fear held me back more times than I would like to admit. One thing that the old man and I had in common, was that we know how to love. He loved his family fiercely! He loved his friends like they were family… and oh boy did he love to fish!
People today, change who and what they love as swiftly as the wind blows. Loyalty and Honesty have taken a backseat to cheating and lies. I’ve had the words, “I just don’t love you anymore” burned into my heart. I could’ve let it harden me, but instead I let it mold me. Every day, I choose love. When I’m helping to raise two children, who aren’t mine by blood, I don’t stop and think “these aren’t my children.” For what ever reason my heart got linked to theirs, and I will love them just as fiercely as if they were my blood. I’ll teach them things, like how to make salsa, how to treat others, and hopefully how to love God. They don’t NEED me in their lives, but I find that now I have come to need them in mine. I’m proud so proud of their daddy for the changes I’ve seen him making in himself in the past weeks. Letting go of past hurts, and just moving forward in kindness is not always easy. The fact that George’s daughter could recall the story of when she started seeing a change in him for the better, reminds me that I’m not the only one watching. We have two little sets of eyes that see and remember most everything.
Yesterday was the one year mark since George’s last breath. I KNOW he is greatly missed. I’ll admit I cried, the ugly kind of cry, while writing this… but I know that if he were here, he would have placed a hand on my shoulder and said, “what’s the matter sis?” I’m almost positive he would’ve reminded me that everything would be alright. Then he would have said something silly to make me smile.
I asked one of George’s daughters to send me her favorite picture of him. She of course sent this one and her comment was perfect. “The one with the girls, He was telling them a joke. He always wanted to make them laugh.”
Honestly, I just wanted to make some pizza sauce today. I had no plans of writing this blog. In fact I had planned to give up writing all together. Someone just said to me last night, find the thing that you’re good at and do that. I’m so thankful that, just like George, I’m good at loving people. The pizza has been made, and eaten. I even made a few extra for some people that I love. I’m ending the day, and a pretty good day might I add, sending a little love to all of you. I’ll leave y’all with my favorite poem and one I saw enacted in the life of my dear friend and his entire family.
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway