By Greg Schmidt, hospice chaplain
My wife is a fan – a.k.a. fanatic! – of Hallmark movies. Much to her chagrin, I insert a “spoiler alert” and announce how the movie is going to turn out about 3-5 minutes into the show. How do I know? In my opinion, there’s a very basic algorithm to every Hallmark movie. 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 “Mr. 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 longs for the attention of Mr. 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. 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. And has to be understood over the course of life, 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 up – that define the life!
When family and friends gather for funeral or memorial services, they recount the moments; otherwise known as “the dash,” that time of life between the birth and the death. I’m sure your family is like mine. WHAT we remember about someone’s dash-moments may differ from person to person. That makes total sense to me, since none of us approach the exact same story or experience with the exact same perspective or background.
Recently 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! 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 figure out was what time period was being remembered, because at some point throughout their childhood, she had both.
The greatest joy of being a hospice chaplain and a Heart & Soul Hospice Team member is helping families remember – and celebrate – the dash. When disputes arise, I try and remind the parties that will listen that it really doesn’t matter who is “right” … and that it’s quite possible no one is “wrong.” Why? Because our memories are about what is precious and inspirational. Such memories become our foundational and motivational reflections. It’s that way because all of us want our lives to matter.
We want our moments to be about living, not dying … even, or especially when, we’re dying. We search for joy, and seek to eradicate pain. We look for promise and hope and peace. 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. Give it away! Daily!