Friday, November 27, 2015

Approaching Prayer on Thanksgiving Day

I don’t know quite what has happened
Or that anything has,
Hoping only that
The irrelevancies one thinks of
When trying to pray
Are the prayer . . . --Approaching Prayer by James Dickey

You build me up
You break me down
My heart, it pounds
Yeah, you got me
With my hands up
Put your hands up--
Tik Tok by Ke$ha

If affection holds you back
Oh, then what is left to hold
If I could find the answer
To that question then I'd know--
The Act We Act by Sugar (Bob Mould)

Everyone has a prayer playlist with Ke$ha and Sugar songs on it, right?

Maybe not exactly but as it is with horseshoes and hand grenades, it is probably close enough. After all, isn't most times a prayer an atonement for some guilty pleasure sandwiched between gratefulness and humility? 

And if there is ever a holiday characterized by guilty pleasures sandwiched between the bread slices of gratefulness and humility I think it must be Thanksgiving. The day should be filled with family, friends, good times, joy, and of course a feast of great food and drink and some football for good measure. A perfect merging of indulgence, guilt and grace. A celebration of all the gifts of life.

The holiday for me is also a personal celebration as it marks the day of the first race I ever ran, the Atlanta Thanksgiving Half marathon in 1998. It also marks the day of the first marathon I ever ran in 2005. My life is infinitely changed and better due to those two events. 

But Thanksgiving day is also tangled up in the anniversery of the most devastating event in my life, the loss of my nephew Evan to bacterial meningitis on November 24, 2006, the day after Thanksgiving. The holiday isn't ruined by this tragedy but it is weighted.  The colors of the day are no longer just one bright shade but are every pantone hue, both dark and light and all that is in between.

 So on Thanksgiving morning I always run long. It is a recognition and celebration of myself as a runner. The run, almost three delicious hours where my mind evolves, devolves and plays over the years and the people on a brilliant fall morning in a perfect state of being, is also an animated prayer. 

The day is a gorgeous. My feet crunch the leaves on the sidewalk, as cars filled with families drive past me. I run down the sidewalk turning on all the streets that I know easily with my eyes closed. I pass a group of fathers with their sons and daughters playing football in a church yard. I pass men and women out walking their dogs or pushing babies in strollers. On two different streets I pass the dead, sleeping in old cemeteries. I pass the houses, the schools, the churches and the stores. 

I am grateful for the workers at Walgreens and CVS where I stop for a drink of water. Everyone is kind. 

As I run,  watching the world and turning on all the familiar streets, I feel a sense of togetherness in the world that isn't always there. 

My mind, finding relevancy in the irrelevancies and reunites a turn of the road with a memory. A moment of heartache turns to hope with a breath. The wind, brisk and cold, waters my eyes that find tears. Then, with the sun warming, I find forgiveness and the good stuff of promises.  Finally, I lose myself to hope in the salt of sweat and muscle fatigue.

17 miles. One mile for every year as a runner. 

I am not done. I can't help myself. I have to ask the universe the question I have asked her the last nine Thanksgiving day mornings. It bubbles up. I want to blame the wind, the bright sun, the blue sky, the concrete, the dirt, and the trees with their dying leaves.

 I am a flawed, scarred human with a need to  answer the question. I want a resolution. 

How does one ever get over losing a child? 

I realize, as I turn towards home, to some questions maybe there is not an answer. That, it could be, that it is impossible to comprehend an answer to a question that is so wholly and impossibly wrong. It is a question that shouldn't have to be asked. The question should not in itself exist. It is the flaw in the tapestry of life.

I finish at the track. I have three more miles to give. These are, of course, for Evan. 

I run circles around the families on the field while I wait for mine to come. I see strangers, acquaintances, and my friends with their children, dogs, balls and games. No one knows that while I am running circles around them that I am praying.

20 miles and I am done. 

I can finally stand still, talk to people and be in the day, back in the world; broken and reconstructed whole again.

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