A Strangely Short Life



“My life is my message.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

Been sensing the limits of my own frail humanity this week.

The feelings of frailty set in at hearing about people we know die, in hospital, in treatment, in nursing homes.

My first mentor in West Africa, Lew Cass,  passed away in 1997 after forty seven years working overseas. His wife, Vida Cass, continues to be a deep encouragement in everything we do in Africa.

During the past twenty two years of working in Africa I have written a journal of my encounters almost daily. I share this journal with only a few dozen fellow pilgrims who have been there, understand, who love to vicariously live the international story over and over again. This twenty two year journal has expounding on the nitty gritty details of life overseas. Vida Cass has read every word on these thousands and thousands of written pages.

At just under ninety years of age, she still keenly follows on her IPad, replying to these Africa journal digests like no other. When we hear nary an encouraging word, she has never ceased to encourage, comment, or provide some keen wisdom from a lounge chair at the extended seniors care facility she now calls home, on Prince Edward Island, Canada. She just sent us a picture of Prince Edward Islands first snow storm of the year, snapped and delivered freshly to us with her IPad.

It is selfish I know, but it really hit some place deep in my soul to hear this news of her in a Seniors home. When she goes the way of the majority, what will we do without her constantly walking with us in this journey? The answer is, I don’t know. There are few others like her. Vida is not a person who can be replaced. A very special lady.

I wanted to go see her before we left Canada (2 hrs drive away), but I just couldn’t do it, and I am ashamed of myself. I just buried my head in work instead, convincing myself that she will have so many others around her, and people who can do her even more good.

The truth, for real? I would not have been able to say a word, in the state I was in.

Then there are my aging parents across the road. Watching their health issues as well. They are not as invincible as they once seemed to be.

The further you walk out to the fringes of life, both in time, distance, and the radical nature of your choices, the lonelier it seems to bet, at least it seems to me.

I have learned that sometimes you don’t even need to say a word to tick some folks off. Once ticked, they write you off, don’t communicate, or do that obvious fake pretend thing when you are around.

If you don’t sing the exact same song, tow the same line, use the same methods, act the same way, have similar opinions, speak about the same things, or rally to the same vision, is enough to piss some folks off, very much.  Why is that so?

Over the last seven years I had to step out of a few things because of this. Not because I dislike them, i really like some of them, but rather because I’ve grown tired of the awkwardness being present obviously causes them. I’m tired of fake table chat that pretends, that weakly tries to mask the reality that not everyone’s story is welcome here. I can get along with them, but they don’t seem to get along with me. Best to be quiet and invisible.

Anyway, these human events combined have reminded me of the frailty of life, even my life, and the stupidity of so many things. I am presently well into the second half of my life, and now I’m looking for moments that matter. My priorities have changed, I walk different, but probably not different enough. Maybe the walk is really only a limp now.

I’m off to limp in Mali today. Mali is in a precarious state these days.

“We do not remember days, we remember moments.” (Cesare Pavese)

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” (George Bernard Shaw)

“My life is my message.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

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