I stand at my window and watch enthralled as huge snowflakes waft my way. A quote from a George McDonald novel drifts into mind. My paraphrase: "Good is coming to me; good is always coming to me, in the best possible form for me at this particular moment. Even if I do not know it, even if I cannot recognize it, good is coming to me."
I ponder this as I watch snowflakes drift down over the waking world. Maybe this is how life is: maybe good is always falling gently upon us, a unique good, crowning the individual moment, covering our particular needs. Maybe we don't know it's coming. Maybe we can't see it all the time. Maybe we see it only through eyes of faith.
Or maybe this is all so much hooey. Our cat O.B. presented us with a large brown field mouse yesterday. Was good coming–always coming–to that mouse even as feline claws sank into soft yielding flesh, as razor-sharp teeth cut short a mousey life?
My father-in-law may know now if what Walt Whitman says is true: Death is far different than we imagine. And luckier. Orville died recently at age 97. His was a gentle going–a precipitous two-week decline after two years in a nursing home. Even there, he had continued to look after others–staff, residents and visitors alike. He policed the halls, watching for anything out of place. He wept with those who wept, smiled at most everyone he met.
At his funeral people recalled his pulling weeds from his soybean field at age 92, and the cats he kept in his dotage. A grandson told of the time he found his grandpa sad one morning, having buried his favorite cat after it was hit on the road. Later that day Orville had a big smile on his face. He must have buried someone else's cat. His favorite 'Snoopy' had come rubbing up against his legs. Today Snoopy lives on, while his master's body lies buried in the cold ground. Good is coming, Orville, good is always coming.
Or is it? I had a hard time believing so this past fall when a routine blood test suggested my husband Dave had an aggressive form of cancer. The news hit us hard. I went into overdrive, researching the latest treatments, reading what I could find on the subject, talking about cancer with anyone who would listen. Meanwhile, Dave explored taking early retirement, made lists of what furniture would go to which child, reflected aloud on happy memories. He finally took me aside and said, "Look, your talk of 'cancer, cancer, cancer' is not helpful to me. If I do have a shortened life expectancy, I want to focus on being grateful for the time I have had; I want to make the most of what I have left. Please support me in this."
Follow-up test results indicated no cancer. Dave shelved his plans for early retirement. Good always coming.
Meanwhile, my three adult sons remain estranged from me. No response to my continued overtures. Good always coming?
New fallen snow blankets the tree limbs as far as eye can see. I catch my breath as a squirrel in the maple tree crawls out near the end of a slippery branch, leaps into the air towards a snowy oak's outstretched arms, four or five feet away. It lands safely. I sigh with relief.
And I wonder: what leaps are you and I being called to make? In relationships, jobs, healthcare decisions, inner and outer life journeys? No guarantee we won't grab for the branch and get an armful of air instead. Sometimes all we have to go on is hope. Is that enough? Snowflakes plummet faster now. Good is coming, good is always coming. I hope so. Maybe hope helps us move forward, take great leaps of faith, meet whatever comes with open arms. May the branches hold.
This essay appeared in the February issue of The Letter.