“What’s/Whose Your…?” Thoughtless Questions & Thoughtful Answers

ocean waters“What’s your biggest fear?” I was asked recently. The question has stayed in the halls of my mind. It was not the first time I was asked this question or had heard it or read it. It’s like the elusive, “Who is your hero?” question. Or the, “What is your biggest regret?” question. I do have PEZ answers; those answers that stand at the ready when they are necessary supplements for pushing past an inevitable crash from the depleting pressure I can feel when expected to sustain and to effectively participate in socially engaging & polite dialogue. But real answers do not immediately come to my mind. And if they did, the kind of answer that truly meet every qualification of the words that build the questions, would I share them?
These questions are of the sort that are deeply anchored far beneath our life’s surface waters. To mine for the answers to these questions would require a thoughtful and honest appraisal of self. It would require reflection, discovery, and exploration that would take a person somewhere beyond the comfortable reach of the primary senses, beyond easily accessible “within reach” memories, beyond what others have told us about ourselves (and that we pick-and-choose to believe), and into the massive dark and nearly alien waters of self-awareness.
As I approach birthdays, I can feel the weight of the questions waiting. I think others feel them, too. Otherwise, why ask the questions? There are times that we cloak our desire to know more about ourselves by posing questions that express a desire to know others. Maybe their answers will help us to form our own answers. Then again, maybe we ask the questions as an avoidance of some type. Or maybe we rush to be the first to pose the question because that’s the easier and more dominating role within social interaction.
I believe that I have come to know this: There is an inner self with which we either daily brutally fight or that we daily heavily disguise…or both. I guess that’s another question to add to the list. ‪#‎birthday‬ ‪#‎melancholy‬ ‪#‎nostalgia‬

Unforgettable

Jeff Gromis
June 21, 1957 – July 31, 2012

Good friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.

Jeff Gromis was a good friend.  To many of us in this room, he was an invaluable friend.  Over the years, I came to know and appreciate Jeff as a man of upstanding moral virtue, as an enduring source of supportive strength and affirming fellowship, as a man well acquainted with hard work, indefatigable commitment, and faithful availability.  He was a patient man who listened and pondered.  He was a man who appreciated excellence and knew that it was found in a tenacious pursuit of the details.  He was a generous man who loved to share his life, home, and family with others.

After receiving the wrenching news about Jeff, my heart broke for Beth, Meghanne, Hillary, Caitlyn, Cole, Madelyn, and Sophie. This was not how it was supposed to go.  Jeff is one of the good guys.  He lived right.  Loved right.  Believed right.  It wasn’t fair.  After the initial emotions, I immediately began remembering more than a decades worth of parties, church events, dinners, conversations, and other shared experiences with the Gromis family.

I know that it is similar for all of us.  I’ve read several of the posts on Facebook walls, heard of the many visits, calls, texts, emails, and the mounds of food.  And as this room fills with thoughts, both expressed and unexpressed, as it fills with questions that seek a logical explanation for an event that does not and will not make sense for a time, and as we cling to our hope in Christ because it suppresses the swell of emotions that continue to assault our hearts, I want to talk about something that we all have and that we will all cherish until we arrive at the appointed day that our faith is made sight.

Here is a quote from Mitch Albom, author of “One More Day”:

“Lost love is still love. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.”

Thank God for memories.

Actions DO speak louder than words and I must say that Jeff Gromis is one of the loudest friends I have ever heard.  He lived a life that spoke loudly because he was a man of action.  And as a result of this, Jeff has left us with many memories; memories of a life well-played and a love that had hands AND feet…not just words.

I remember the enormous sets Jeff would build for my many ideas and productions at Hickory Grove Baptist.  And when my family and I are enjoying our backyard, I remember the role Jeff played in creating the patio that my wife had envisioned and talked about for years.  When I mow my grass, I remember Jeff bulldozing the uneven ground just because he was already there with a Bobcat.  When I drive my truck, I remember Jeff helping to replace the engine so that my family would not have to buy a new vehicle that we could not afford.  When I think of recruiting inexperienced actors for new roles, I remember approaching strong, quiet, and non-dramatic Jeff to see if he would agree to sit upon a throne, 15 feet or more above the stage, wearing football shoulder pads and holding long sticks in each hand, all draped in a white sheet, lit up by stage lighting as if he were the sun, and attempt to pantomime the words of a backstage actor portraying God the Father in Max Lucado’s, “An Angel’s Story”.  He did it.  I remember planning for a large group of friends to eat at Chima’s in Uptown Charlotte and Beth saying, “Well, I’m not sure if Jeff will go.  He always feels like he needs to dig out his passport anytime we go into Charlotte.”  He went and he loved it.  Jeff expressed his friendship, his love, and his faith through action and because of that, many of us today have treasured memories to hold, to remember, and to share.

To close, I want to say this to the family as an outsider that you graciously allowed inside on many occasions.  As I was driving to the office the other day, Tim McGraw’s song “Live Like You Were Dying” was playing on the radio and I thought to myself, “Jeff never saw this coming…none of us did.  But Jeff lived his life in such a way, that in spite of leaving too early, he has left his house in excellent order.  Jeff already lived as if every minute counted.  All his children are a delight.  His wife is a Proverbs 31 woman.  His testimony is unblemished.  Though death came knocking unexpectedly, Jeff lived like he was dying…no regrets.”  Jeff finished strong.

Good friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.

Jeff, I will never forget you.

Buddy Freeman…blessed are the peacemakers

 

On Sunday, April 15, my step-father, Buddy Freeman, died.  His passage from this life into the next was as peaceful as many could hope for themselves.  He slipped willingly from wakefulness, to sleep, and from sleep, silently into peace.

Buddy married my mother, Pam, 8 years ago.  She met him after surviving a dark and dangerous relationship with her first husband.  Buddy met her after surviving the excruciating loss of his first wife to cancer.

The resulting marriage of Buddy and Pam brought  meaning  back to Buddy’s life and it broke bondages within my mother’s.  Buddy was able to turn the tide that was threatening to wash away the small potential for happiness remaining in my mother.  My mother was able to defeat an oppressive loneliness in Buddy.  In eight too short years, two people were able to help each other to a place of peaceful, simple contentedness.

Buddy, though you will be terribly missed during my visits with Mama at the house; I will always remember you for the fact that you left that house in an order it had never known.  And in doing so, you turned a structure that had previously hidden shame into a structure that embodies warmth, fellowship, and good life.

God bless you, Buddy.  May you rest in the same peace that you lived and created.

 

Betrayal…

My nemesis, Betrayal, and I have met again.

Merriam-Webster defines betrayal as:

1 : to lead astray;
2 : to deliver to an enemy by treachery
3 : to fail or desert especially in time of need
4 a : to reveal unintentionally <betray one’s true feelings> b to disclose in violation of confidence
intransitive verb : to prove false

I cannot fully describe the resulting emotional roller-coaster.  It has consumed my thoughts, my energy, my days, and my nights.  It’s arrival during this season of my life was prophesied to me in January.  I could see its impending arrival a little over a month ago.  I tried to avoid experiencing it by seeking truth but the blind spouse of Betrayal is Trust.  I chose to hold onto her.

Betrayal’s wound hurts deeply because it attacks the one thing we hold onto so strongly; trust.  I know this feeling of grief will pass.  And, I will be the stronger for it.

My hope is that I will not fear to trust nor trust to fear.  If I do, Betrayal has won.

 

Storm…

I am currently experiencing a storm of sorts in my life.  I have found it to be quite true that storms wash us, change us, effect us powerfully, and are tools of God.  But knowing this does not make the experience any less draining or bothersome.  If it did, I suppose one could not categorize the circumstances causing the tribulation “a storm.”  Storms of this type motivate me to action; seeking, praying, questioning, doubting, planning, etc.  The challenge, of course, is choosing the right action which leads to the right path and outcome.  For this, I am grateful for the Spirit’s presence.

Ironically, as I type this out there is a thunderstorm occuring just outside the glass walls of the sunroom in which I am writing.  Now this type of storm I like.  It refreshes me.  It reminds me that there are forces in this world larger and more powerful than myself.  In an odd way, this particular storm brings me peace.

Just something else for me to ponder before dinner.