Only a small handful of days each year are crafted so memorably you can savor their flavor as if they’ve been cherry picked direct from the calendar’s pages and sealed airtight in a mason jar just for you. When they fall into your lap, they’re always a pleasure to rediscover.
Under the shade of a summer afternoon mulberry, it was one of those days.
Finger sandwiches, fruits and sweet iced coffee laid on our quilted blanket while the azimuth of the sun foretold the end of summer and a long awaited very welcome slide into some cooler autumn breezes and the ensuing holiday season. It was one of those days from the handful and a good day for reminiscing.
Friends since age 12, as of that day we had accumulated over 40 years of stories together and apart, each waiting its turn to be told and we laughed them off one after another like punchlines. Memories of the times of being kids fortunately never really fade away. Today, they stood as beacons that our lives meant something back then and lighthouses that would someday guide us home again.
“Did you ever in a million years think that we’d take the paths to where we are now? “ she asked. Our paths had indeed been remarkably different, but were converging yet again today on a soft patch of grass in the park under a celestial blue sky at a time when we could laugh at all the physical evidence we had grown into and beyond our middle ages and waistlines.
It was a banter where no little memory was ever completely narrated before the other jumped in with a better one. We didn’t need to finish, we knew the endings. But the lunch hour was passing quickly and the sun was trying to get a last burn on before resigning as we scurried to fit in as many as possible before we had to pack up and get back to the real world.
“You know, Donnie, somehow you chose this path for your life, “ she said. We made the subtle gestures of tidying our tiny spot on the grass. She was right, of course, but her comment wasn’t the kind you simply abandon just because lunch was over and pack up only to drive away with until the next lunch.
If I had chosen this path, or indeed it was chosen for me, the reasons and answers were questions I had for heaven.
We closed the co-authored keepsake book of the afternoon. We hugged, pecked and made our vows for another lunch in a couple weeks. After all, four decades apart would take a lot of lunches in the park to fully digest.
I left preoccupied by the questions as I waved and watched her drive away and thanked God for the reunion.
“Questions For Heaven.” I played the Chris Rice CD by the same name teary-eyed as I navigated home. Some day, I’ll meet this incredible lyricist whose music always inspires so much reflection.
It was the night before and during that twilight time of falling asleep when my relaxed but curious mind fought off the doze with a seemingly urgent, captivating thought; the type you don’t know whether to roll over and write down for the morning or employ some quick memory trick to trigger you when you awake to its monumental importance.
I fell asleep.
I’d forgotten that important thought from the night before, waking with hope the mysterious nagging wouldn’t get in the way of the necessities of the next morning and the long awaited lunch.
Arriving home from lunch, I remembered.
The question she had provoked in me about how and why I took the path I had wasn’t going to see any immediately satisfying answer—at least in this lifetime. I’m sure my private questions are not unlike your own in some way– the kind we all have asked ourselves while lying on our backs in a park one day at the edge of summer, surveying deep blue skies.
I’m pretty sure the answers to the biggest “whys” of our lives are already packed within a future welcome gift, picked out specially for each of us, adorned in folded sheets of gold and giant ribbons and bows with a tiny note that reads:
“Welcome to Heaven. Before you come and see Me, please open this welcome gift.”
Within, I expect to find a set of hand crafted, incredibly intricate blueprints.
Turning the pages diagramming the chronology of my life from birth to that day, I have imagined little blue penciled arrows pointing to particular people and events…and moments I scarcely recall and what I deemed utter insignificance at the time. The legend at the foot of each page will include the brilliant and brief soul-satisfying descriptions of how my life impacted and was in turn impacted, and unknowingly intertwined with the lives and destinies of others. I expect it will show precise nodal moments and actions of myself upon others and vice versa. The icons of faces of thousands of people I had encountered and how they in turn spun other stories on other pages in other golden wrapped boxes for others yet to come. The assortment of nagging questions I had amassed over a lifetime, worked and reworked countless nights and blue-skied days, and which the best of earthly minds had not yet explained to my satisfaction will finally put my soul to rest on those blue pages. Then, and only then, will I follow the signs down the great throne room down the hall.
“Any more questions?,” He’ll say.
“One more,” I’ll reply, stubbornly.
“Why all the mysteries?”
And I expect His punchline of a reply:
“The answers, Don, are only as satisfying as the effort you make to find them. I know you labored hard because you had a lot of those little arrows on your blueprints. Each was the beginning of an answer to a question of another. Your help was greatly appreciated. So rest your mind now, sit down with me. I have sandwiches and coffee ordered and a nice blanket, and you won’t believe how blue the sky is up here!”