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TransitionPosted Monday, September 20, 2010, at 11:11 AM
I found a shirt at Wal-mart that grabbed my attention.
On the front of it are the words "When I die make it look like I was doing something cool!"
Sometimes we're able to find that symbol that tells us we're okay, we're moving forward, and that we're making it through whatever life is presenting on this part of the journey.
That shirt has become mine.
My eighty-nine year old mother's life on earth recently came to an end. Paralyzed and in a wheel chair these last three and a half years, her desire to live began ebbing away with the death of my father nearly eleven months ago. She discovered the gender of her soon-to-be-arriving first great-grandchild and then told a nursing home nurse "now I can go."
One of her favorite aides at the nursing home was a kind woman raised in Greencastle, a mother and grandmother who was able to tell my mother all about Greencastle and the congregation I serve in ministry. Christie Gorm checked on my mother at 4 a.m., visited and joked with her until she fell back asleep, and then found her an hour later. It especially helped my sister to know that Christie was the one who found her. We could trust her words that our mother passed gently in her sleep.
And that's not a bad way to go!
Thanks to so many of you who sent cards and email notices of sympathy and support. Thanks to Dr. Brian Casey and the University for the beautiful flowers sent to the funeral home in Evansville. Thanks to those who drove many hours to be there for the visitation or funeral that I conducted. Thanks to Andrew Alexander, a 1992 graduate of DePauw University, for his professional care of our family during that time.
I've been amazed at the Greencastle "connection" throughout this entire experience.
A transition has occurred in my family. My mother was the last of that entire generation. Stories and memories can be retold but from now on they are second-hand. With her death goes my last personal link to the Great Depression, World War II, and so many other parts of their lives that will now be labeled simply as history.
Indeed, my sister and I have already had a "disagreement" regarding some details of our childhood. She remembers things one way while I remember them another. There is now no official "referee" to decide who has the correct version or even someone who can tell us that we are both wrong.
This is a transition that I wasn't expecting. In some regards the truth becomes relative, and in many regards the stories of the past are now "relative." I'll never convince my sister that her stories aren't accurate and will she not be able to do the same for me.
And, ultimately, isn't that the way it should be? Our memories give us the foundation of our lives. We all have different foundations.
Finally, there is a third part to this transition.
As my father and mother have gone, so too, one day will I. They are no longer there to be that buffer between me and "becoming old." It is now my turn to age gracefully.
One day I will retire, will find myself getting older, and will eventually get to that state in life of being seen as wise because I've outlived everyone who knew otherwise!
However, I'm not there yet nor am I ready to check myself into Asbury Towers.
Perhaps it's a statement of denial. Perhaps it's a reference about a philosophy of life. It may simply be a hope, because none of us know exactly what the future holds or our condition in life when "our time comes."
And, at five dollars a shirt, Wal-Mart isn't getting rich from my support of the cause.
Yet, I've already purchased several copies of the same shirt. And I like the statement the shirt makes.
I'm okay, I'm moving forward, I'm making it through this part of the journey.
When I die, make it look like I was doing something cool.
P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.