All week long the potential loomed like a wall cloud. Two curly, long-haired boys kept asking, “Where is Spurgeon?”
Friday the boys were together and independently they asked where to find Spurgeon. Maybe they noticed his bed had not been on the Love Seat in the den. Could be they noticed the absence of the water and food bowls that Cohen once lapped water from mimicking his furry friend. Or, it could be they were used to the greeting they received from Spurgeon when coming to Grandpa Doc and Grammy’s house. Whatever the trigger, they kept asking.
I knew the day would come. But, how about just one more day?
Cars Are Bigger Than You
We looked at the cars in the driveway and talked about what their parents meant when they required them to hold hands when in a parking lot. We took the long walk to the tree under which Spurgeon was buried. Along the way I wanted to impress a point both their sets of parents had made. “Cars are bigger than you.”
Talk of ratios come later unless your son-in-love is in the shape of a giant. That is how my niece, Emalee, once described Craig. And why not? Standing next to her he indeed towers above at more than 6’6”. Why I think he is in the shape of a giant and I am more near his height than she.
Boys run. Indiscriminately they run. With abandon they run.
Don’t get behind cars. Drivers cannot see you.
If we cannot describe the mathematical components to concrete minds of 3 and 4 year-olds, we can describe the difference between big and small, heavy and light. That was my aim.
See That Mound of Dirt
“Where is he?”, they kept asking.
We arrived at the place. I pointed there. Surgeon is under the mound of dirt. Yes, you know the follow-up, “Why?” Try as I might, I sought to explain the relationship between how big the car was and how small Spurgeon was in hopes they would have an “Aha!” moment.
Too young you say. For a moment I thought just the same thing. Maybe I should have simply said, “He is gone.”
I mowed Saturday. But, I did not mow near the mound of dirt. I did not have time. I did not want to. Surgeon would keep an eye on me as I mowed. He would find a cool spot underneath a bush. Once I moved to a different location he would move to a spot so he could see where I was. I could not help but think what would be different if I had seen him that night.
It Is a Mystery
Sensing that we may or may not have been successful answering the boys questions, we began moving away from the mound of dirt, from the spot where Spurgeon was buried. Max wondered why his mother was crying. Surely she had her own memories. Maybe she cried as I stumbled for just what to say.
Cohen with a stick in hand and probing the mound of dirt said, “It is a mystery.”
“Right you are young padawan.”
“Out of the mouth of babes.”
It was not a moment to think, “Wow, what a sagely four year old. He really does pay attention to his Grandpa Doc!” No. Instead, it was a reminded of our own limits. No matter what age we find ourselves, there will always be something unexplainable. We will be faced with the reality, “It is a mystery.”
Our Mysteries Change
One of these days Cohen and Max, and soon to be here young Fox, the death of Spurgeon won’t be so much a mystery. They will understand ratios, weights and measures, force and pressure, and it will not be such a mystery that cars are bigger than dogs.
They will understand the human practice of burial, whether for our pets or people. They will make sense of tears over loss.
But, they will still wonder about death. One of my friends claims death is so difficult for us today because we pretty it up. Embalming and well-made caskets, pristinely cut grass and accompanying flowers at cemeteries tend to create a disconnection. How is it that someone that appears so serenely is at the same time so lifeless?
They will wonder when it will come. How it will come. Where it will come.
Will it be an earthquake like the one that struck Nepal? Or, will it come at the end of a long life like their GGG?
Our mysteries change but the subjects are often the same.
We Tend to Affirm in Belief What We Already Practice In Life
I am struck by this every week as our small Bible Study group grapples with the life of Jesus as we read through the Gospel of John together. It seems we often face the dilemma that what we once thought about the life of Jesus comes under question. Maybe it is the result of our affirming orthodox doctrines but attempting to understand how they work on the ground.
Recently we have been wrangling the humanity of Jesus. Just what and when did Jesus know about his death? After all, “God sent his Son.” The great danger in this particular dilemma is making the gnostic mistake. Holding on so hard to the Deity of Jesus often has us talking about the habits and practices of Jesus as so beyond our reach that any notion of loving our neighbor is more a Platonic high ideal than an on the ground reality. One day we say. And, we excuse ourselves from the command.
It is as if we already practice the conditional love of our neighbor that we search for a way to hold a belief that supports that practice. We all have our conditions for our relationships. One of my friends from high school days and I were chatting about a mutual friend. He told me how he tried to keep the relationship going but felt it was one-sided. He would soon give up future attempts as he reached his condition for a timely response was met.
We all do this. We support our actions with witty sayings and earthy wisdom. And, of course, we find a text to support our practice and feel good about our beliefs.
We rock along in our studies, our group conversations, until something creates a cut between what we claim and what we do.
Welcome the Unconditional?
And, I return to Spurgeon. When we think back to how old he was getting it is easy to retrospectively observe the effects of that aging. Tommie is convinced Spurgeon was older than we remember. Maybe he was. That would explain more since he had lived beyond the average. But, that is little consolation that he is gone. It would have been like telling my mother, “Well GG did get to enjoy 94 years, that is beyond the average lifespan for people living today.” That truly sounds comforting, not so much.
What I mean by thinking back to Spurgeon is the increasing occasion where I would scold him for getting under my feet. While I have been working out, I am still not as agile as I once was. I would tell him to get our from under my feet. Today we realize, he did not know which way our feet were going because his sight was deteriorating, his hearing was going.
And just as quick as he would follow me to the Den, he would come over to have his ears rubbed. It did not matter that I had raised my voice out of fear I might fall. Unconditionally he came to show he was still here, still present.
Yes, I am making an illustration from my relationship with my dog. Remember the recent article that measured what is produced in the brain when we associate loving actions and how this shows up in dogs? We must admit that we often treat our pets better than we treat people. Therein lies the rub.
We want our pets to love us no matter what. We groom our relationship with them and learn that indeed they will come back. Rarely do we treat our human friends with such affection. We prefer conditions.
Then there is Jesus. Yes, I am going to make that move. The Unconditional meets our conditions. And, our conditions get both exposed and ruptured when we consider that over the centuries Jesus has weathered our ideas about him, our statements of belief in him, and our projections of what he is like that are derived from the best of us. Still he shows up. He still calls, “love one another as I have loved you.”
And, that is the mystery.
Image Credit – Hummingbird Food
Image Credit –Infinity