The Most Real Day

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Today strips away every illusion. “Dust to dust, ashes to ashes.” Other days we avoid it like the plague, but it is our mortal truth. We die. Without exception.

It’s Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, when many Christians offer our foreheads for “the imposition of ashes” as the beginning of everything that the is truthful.  Perhaps the term “imposition” is chosen because the recognition of our mortality and ultimate dependence rarely comes willingly, although it is the most “natural” of all cognitive recognitions.

We all run from death, but we never outrun it, leaving us to ponder on our most real day.

“Whatever lies on the other side of my years is beyond my mortal knowing. But I can and do affirm the eternity of God and the scriptural point of view that whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord, ‘All flesh is grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God (YHWH, the eternal) shall last forever.’ Right now, that’s enough bread to live on today. . . . ”

– Excerpt from “When the Breath Flies Away,” Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness, p. 64, now available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Today, I wish you a most real day. . . beyond exceptionalism.  It’s the beginning of all joy and personal responsibility.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, trying to get real, Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Chaska, MN.

You’d better not get sick!

We’re sitting across from each other in the ICU Waiting Room after standing at the bedside of our dear friend Phil. Phil and I are old classmates and getting older at age 73.

Kay’s face is solemn. Sad. Pensive. Her brow is furrowed, the way it gets when someone she loves is in trouble. She goes deep inside,  dives down into the darkness to draw wisdom and courage, and comes back up and out when she’s ready.

She says something I can’t hear. I shake my head. She’s says it again quietly, I suppose, because there are other people in the Waiting Room. My inability to hear only serves to underscore the reality of our getting old.

After several more failed attempts to hear her, I walk over to her chair.

You’d better not get sick!” she says.

I tell her I won’t because, unlike our formerly fit-as-a-fiddle racquet ball player friend Phil in the ICU, I don’t believe in exercise. “Exercise is bad for your health,” I’ve said a 1,000 times to Kay’s dismay. I’m more like Barclay, also in the Waiting Room, who, like Phil, looks fit-as-a-fiddle. (This is NOT the canine with the same name who’s waiting in the car in the hospital parking ramp.)

“Barclay, do you exercise?” Barclay’s head recoils like a boxer dodging a stiff jab, his eyes squint, his face grimaces at the thought. He slowly raises his right hand as if holding a spoon, opens his mouth, and shoves whatever’s in the spoon into his open mouth. “Ice cream?” I ask. “Doughnuts,” he says. “What kind?” “Chocolate.” “What brand?” “Doesn’t matter. Any kind. Doughnuts!”

Whether our form of exercise is eating doughnuts, playing racquet ball or working out at a gym, we’re all going to get sick. Some sooner, some later. It’s one of two things every mortal shares in common with every other mortal: we are born and we “get sick” (i.e., we die).

“You’d better not get sick!” we say with a smile. In the meantime we give thanks for today and tonight, the comic relief of the doughnuts, and the opportunity to love each other as we pray and wait for Phil’s recovery in the ICU.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 13, 2015