Message from a park bench

thumb_IMG_7489_1024I find myself in that familiar place again. Propping my leg up on the small wooden park bench, I stretch those hamstring muscles that are so much tighter than they once were. 🙂 I walk for exercise and inspiration most days of the week. Often I end up in a nearby park where this bench sits. It is a poignant sight. Attached to the back of the bench is a plaque in honor of a woman, loved by her husband, parents and children, who passed away too soon.

I remember her well. Our little boys were in a pre-school class together. She was one of those moms who always went the extra mile. She always helped with parties. She had the coolest kid stuff at her home for play dates, although we didn’t use the term “play dates” back then. Once, when our kids had advanced into elementary school, she called me inquiring about videos of the pre-school programs. There were some class events that she couldn’t come up with while cataloging videos of  her children’s school activities. I was not helpful. We didn’t even own a camera at the time. I remember feeling like I was a few rungs below this super mom. Of course she would never have intended that I feel that way. She was just a loving and involved mom for whom documenting her family’s life was crucial.

I was sad when I learned that she’d passed away a few years ago. Today as I’m walking the short loop around the park I can’t get her off my mind. I’m wondering, if she could chat with me today, what she’d say. I have a feeling that she’d tell me to quit worrying about wrinkles. She didn’t have time to develop any. To quit fretting over how I come across to others. Why not just be myself? Maybe even to embrace the signs of “maturity” because it means I’m still alive. Spending time worrying about our home, our jobs, even our family….what a waste. Living in the present moment is what I’m guessing she’d encourage me to do. Not wasting a precious minute on things I can’t control or that don’t really matter. My thoughts of her spur me on to be grateful.

I recall another friend who died young. Shortly before passing, he commented that walking across the street, the sun bearing down on him, was like a miracle. It was as if he’d come alive; he had a new awareness of the gift of just feeling and breathing and walking. So today I’m more aware of all the gifts; and I commit myself anew to live more freely and fully in the moments I have.

To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us- and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His Love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense grace from Him. Gratitude, therefore, takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by heresay but by experiences. And that is what makes all the difference.”

Thomas Merton

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