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“And what color will your outfit be?” Dad asked of his women: Mother, my sister Martha, and me, days before our annual June vacation. Our trunks had already been shipped to their destination. Excitement mounted as last suitcases were snapped shut; as the truck from Kruse Florist rumbled up the circle drive and delivered three corsages, each with our names; as Dad beamed in the taxi taking us to Union Station and the train.

Once inside our compartment, I floated my corsage in the brass sink in hopes of preserving its beauty. As hours passed, I checked its color, its freshness, but to no avail. Even then, I had no tolerance for deterioration and death.

Why such abhorrence of death, integral to all life forms, including ours? Again, Dr. Singh addresses this question in The Grace in Dying. It has to do with life and death, the Second of the Four Dualisms that an infant confronts in the development of his/her mental ego. Rather than be swamped by the unknowability of death, he sets a critical boundary behind which life continues unfolding on a manageable scale: the size of a postage stamp, per Dr. Singh. Only when threatened by terminal illness or significant losses does death cower over us.

Thus begins the necessary dismantling of the mental ego with the dissolution of the other Dualisms: self and not-self, mind and body split, and the acceptable and unacceptable, each having served their purpose. Central to this purifying process is the Ground of Being, or God, with whom the individual is preparing to remerge, with full consciousness. Bliss follows.

 

 

 

Yet, I still feel uneasy tossing out five-day-old tulips, their blooms withered, their leaves faded, their stems meandering.

Tiger lilies are beginning to bloom. Talk of the Town, a popular species in our neighborhood, flourishes along fences and side gardens. Morning breezes excite their six-sculpted petals trembling with stamens and pistils; their orangeness ushers in summer’s brash colors. But in time, these rowdy adventurers will collapse their petals and wither and drop to the ground. Would that we could hold onto their beauty.

Looking deeper, we find this ordinary perennial rooted within the cycle of life and death. We, too, have a similar rootedness. How many springs have we experienced the pastel feathering of fruit trees, only to move into summer’s light-plays, followed by autumn’s chill and winter’s bluster? And quickened, yet again, with the return of kaleidoscopic color enlivening somber spirits?

So how can we relish such seasonal changes? Allow them to teach us? It seems to be about sacrifice: cutting away the unworkable for the fresh and untried.

Jesus talks about this when speaking of “the lilies of the field” (Matthew 6:28 +). He challenges his anxious listeners, ourselves included, to own their small-mindedness and to set their hearts on God’s Kingdom. Therein is experienced ultimate significance dressed in unchangeable colors, fresher than the first morning of creation.

 

 

 

 

 

Flashing lights crazed an otherwise seamless afternoon: leafing trees flickering in the sunshine, flowering shrubs scenting the air, crooning infants heartening their moms and dads.

Emergency vehicles stopped at the corner bungalow and parked. Doors flipped opened. Firemen fastened their vests and grabbed axes. Paramedics hefted their bags over their shoulders and set up a gurney. Neighbors gawked from the sidewalk.

As I sat in my car, I prayed. For years, I had walked past this bungalow obscured by a distressed ash, an overgrown Chinese elm, and scraggly hedges. Neglect oozed through the papered-over windows, through the broken screens, through the rusty chain-link fence enclosing the backyard tangled with chicory, through the storm door listing on its hinges. No one seemed around—an abandoned house, or so I thought. I continued to pray as I drove home.

Yet, last month’s whirring of the air conditioner in the side yard had given me pause.

Fast forward to this afternoon’s crisis. Help of various kinds was on its way to the occupant, perhaps homeless in his/her own home, or perhaps having transitioned out of here.

The air conditioner was whirring the next morning as I took this photo.

 

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