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Moments define a life

By Greg Schmidt, Chaplain for Heart & Soul Hospice in Wichita and Newton Presbyterian Manor

Have you noticed that every Hallmark movie follows the same basic algorithm? Here’s how it goes: A princess-damsel presents with some sort of professional or social dilemma. In walks a socially awkward, wannabe prince-hero who demonstrates the desire to provide support or answers. His advances are, of course, rebuffed. A second “Captain Obvious” prince-snob rises to the challenge, but in his rush to care for the princess, manifests an arrogant, superior, you-know-you-need-me spirit. While at first the princess foolishly longs for the attention of Captain Obvious, ever so slowly over the course of the movie she falls in love with Mr. Wannabe’s cute little nerdy self. They finally kiss (it never happens until the end). The rocket’s red glare engulfs the sky. And they live happily ever after in Mayberry. Or is that Whoville?

My response to Hallmark’s oversimplification is best stated by Remy, the Disney character in the movie “Ratatouille” who said, “The only thing predictable about life is its unpredictability.” Real life is not simple. Or predictable. It has to be understood over the course of years, not moments. Who knew that the trick to life is living long enough to view unpredictability as your friend? Having said that, it is the “moments” – all added together – that define the life!

When family and friends gather for funeral or memorial services, they recount a lifetime of moments otherwise known as “the dash.” The “dash” is that symbol on a tombstone that is centered between the birth and the death. I’m sure your family is like mine and exactly what we remember about someone’s “dash” may differ from person to person, which makes total sense to me, since none of us approach the exact same story or experience at the exact same time, perspective or history. For example, seven members of my wife’s family tried to remember their Grandma Honey’s Christmas tree. We’re talking about 30-50-year-old memories here! And guess what? There were seven strongly held “I specifically remember …” perspectives. Some remembered a silver tinsel tree illuminated by a multi-colored rotating disc (ahh, the 60s!). Still others remembered a pink flocked tree (ahh, the 70s!). Who was right? They all were! What had to be figured out was what time period was being remembered and/or discussed, because at some point throughout their collective childhood experiences she had both!

The greatest joy of being a Hospice Chaplain and a Heart & Soul Hospice Team member is helping families remember – and celebrate! –  their loved one’s “dash”! When disputes arise among family members, I try and remind those willing to listen that it really doesn’t matter who is “right” … and that it’s still quite possible no one is “wrong.” Why? Because our memories are about what is precious and inspirational to us individually! Such memories become our foundational and motivational reflections about those we’ve loved. Why is that important? Because all of us want our lives and the lives of those we’ve loved to matter! We want our cherished memories to be about living, not dying … even … or especially when … we’re dying! So, we search for joy and seek to eradicate pain! We look for promise and hope and peace. And, even when we’re vulnerable, we open our lives to unpredictable people, places, and things hoping they’ll enable us to look up and onward to the things that last forever! Just like in a Hallmark movie when everything turns out for the greater good in the end, so goes the life of promise found in God and in the love found in His people! NEVER let love die! Find joy in other people’s memories! Give it away! Daily!

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