Some Things Just Take Time...
SOME THINGS JUST TAKE TIME...
It is the restraint of patience that yields the magnificent in life!
As I’ve told many of you over the few years we’ve been chatting, I am a voracious reader. I love finding inspirational stories...triumphs of the human spirit. They fill me with such hope. They stimulate my thinking, which in turn engages my imagination, which results in scenes and sub-plots that find their way into many of my books.
When I find an exceptional story, I jot down a brief summary of the memorable parts on pages of my journal and at some point in time of an indefinite future, I revisit the journal. I try to reconstruct the story from the summary and my recollections of the day I read it. It is a stimulating exercise and provides a wealth of material to adapt and develop into the plots and settings of my books.
While I have been mostly immobilized these past few months, I asked Diana to bring me one of my journals. She brought me the one I wrote in late 2016. If the phrase “a walk down memory lane” means anything to you...well, that is what it was for me.
Not all the stories I wrote about and summarized were my own, but there are deep personal emotions and vivid memories attached to each of them none the less. When I found each one of them, I may have been going through an ordeal at the time or perhaps contemplating a change in my life. Something obviously made them special or meaningful to me or certainly I would have passed over them.
Beneath each written summary are brief notes reflecting my frame of mind or mood at the time...enough to jog my memory years later.
I thought I would share my versions and recollections of a few of these stories with you today and tell you why they meant something special to me at the time. Maybe they will have the same power for you...
But before I get started, I want to share a revelation I've had in these past months. In my life I have come to understand that while faith and prayer are important components of a spiritual life, they are not what move mountains...
It is love
I’d stumbled through more than five decades of my own life before I woke up one morning, 5000 miles from home, and made the decision to take what has proven to be the most important walk of my life. Many of you know the story of how I met my Diana...my soul mate, so I won’t bore you with it again. But if by chance you don’t, I recommend buying the first book in the Terra d’Amore series...Sojourners All. It is very good reading, if I must say so for myself. The Epilogue is titled, Twenty One Days in May, and tells the whole beautiful story.
The day I read the first story I am about to share with you, I was facing some major health problems...ones from which I truly did not believe I would survive. Between a weakening heart and a circulatory system that was just shutting down, I had nearly given up. These were huge mountains placed before me and I had not the physical strength nor stamina to climb them.
Try as I might, I could find no way to get over them...nor around them. I had one choice and one choice only.
I would have to meet them head on.
I could not go around them. I needed to go through them. And by head on, I mean I had to change the way I was thinking...
eliminate ALL negative or unproductive thinking
focus ONLY on positive thoughts
practice the most extreme possibility thinking
I knew it was not going to be easy. The doctors did not paint the brightest future for me...
But I also knew it was not impossible!
Out of desperation no doubt, my father sent a long and thought-provoking letter to me, goading me to have more faith...
“For God’s sake! Pray Jimmy!” he insisted. “It can and will move mountains, son.”
Well, I was praying...damn it! Like a crazy man. Day and night. Night and day. But I knew that prayer alone was not going to change the downward trajectory my life had taken on.
I want you to know that the most important component of my miraculous recovery...what really got me through my plight, was love...
It was her deep love, unwavering commitment and constant presence that lifted me higher than anything else possibly could have. It lifted me up...above the pull of gravity and allowed me to float in an atmosphere of peaceful and right thinking.
With that being said, now allow me to get on with the matter at hand...
One day as I was sitting out under the pergola reading, I came across the story of an Indian man by the name of Dinesh Manjhi. He was also known as the ‘Mountain Man’.
One day his wife Aashita was walking across a goat path on the steepest side of a hill on their tiny rural farm in India, when she fell. She tumbled downward for many meters, bouncing off rocks and small saplings, until she came to a stop at the bottom in a cold, shallow running stream.
There she lay for hours. In and out of consciousness. Her injuries serious. Life threatening.
When she had not returned home by dinner time, Dinesh panicked. He was certain something terrible had happened and so he went out to find her. Had she not been wearing a brightly-colored shoulder scarf, chances are he never would have seen her at the bottom of that hill.
Cautiously he crept down the steep incline to be at her side. Immediately he could see she needed a doctor and quickly.
But that wasn’t going to be possible
You see, their farm was in a tiny and very isolated village...thirty kilometers and more from the next closet town that might have a doctor, over treacherous footpaths and steep mountain ridges. He would have to carry her there or take her over the mountain on the back of a mule for there simply were no cars or trucks available. And even if there were, there were no roads where they lived, only narrow, rocky, nearly impassable foot paths.
Despite her obvious external injuries, he knew it was the internal ones that were the most life threatening. Getting her to a doctor in time to save her life was for the most part impossible. And so, he resigned himself to one simple yet horrible fact...
Aashita was not going to survive
He carried her home and laid her on a bed. He did the best he could to make her comfortable. Tragically, she died from her injuries before Dinesh could do anything more for her.
He began to prepare her body...washing and rubbing scented oils on it. He applied the chandam to her forehead, made from the burnt ashes of sandalwood. Then she was cremated in accordance with ancient Hindi tradition.
On the day he was releasing her ashes to the winds...the same winds that blew through their mountain home, he made her a promise...
“My dearest Aashita,” he began. “I could not save you. Such was not our fate. But know this, you did not die in vain. This day I promise you that I will carve a path through the mountains such that a death as senseless as yours will never be experienced by another villager.”
It was an ambitious goal. When he told the villagers of his plan, they laughed at him. But that did not keep him from beginning. Working every hour that he could spare, he dug away with a pick and shovel at the mountain side.
It was with the greatest determination and willpower, after twenty-two years of labor, that he finished. He’d fulfilled his promise. He'd carved a path through the mountains and down to the road that led to the next town town.
Though he suffered mockery and ridicule, he succeeded. He'd kept his promise. He'd completed his mission. That path became his legacy and the defining mark of his life. The distance between his village and the next town was reduced from thirty kilometers to a mere ten. They were no longer isolated.
Dinesh died a month after his success, but his path exists to this very day. It is known as Aashita’s Path. One can only wonder how many lives it has saved.
The second story I want to share is much shorter but oh so very powerful...
Jonas and Amanda Carmichael had one of those amazing loves! They’d met during high school and when they celebrated their thirty fifth wedding anniversary thirty years later, they’d spent all but a handful of days together.
He was a very accomplished photographer and together with Amanda, he ran a small studio in a small town outside of Chicago. They did very well and along with wise investments, were preparing themselves for a comfortable retirement.
But that was not to be
Jonas was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March of 2014. He was only 54 years old. Though he was a strong man, his condition deteriorated faster than his doctors had expected.
He was also a practical, pragmatic kind of man and so he made sure he spent his final months putting his house in order, doing what was necessary to assure that Amanda would be comfortable after he was gone.
He was rushed to the hospital on a Thursday morning in May when his organs began to fail. He could no longer walk. Amanda stayed at his side day and night until the following Sunday morning when he passed. She was devastated.
After the funeral she took a few weeks before going back to the studio. They had both agreed that with him gone, keeping the business open made no sense. He had given her explicit, well-written instructions as to what she would need to do to close the business. She followed them to the letter.
One day, several days before the doors were closed and locked for the last time, a delivery truck pulled up out front. A young man got out, carrying a beautiful bouquet of flowers.
Attached to the bouquet was a small card. On it was written a short note...
“My love for you will last until the day the last flower in this bouquet dies.”
It was signed...
"And I will love you forever, Jonas.”
Even in his extreme pain he was thinking only of her. He’d made the arrangements with the florist while he was still able to think and speak clearly...
“I want them delivered to her exactly one month after my passing,” were his only instructions.
Amanda read that note over and over again throughout the coming week. Each time she read it, his words caused her heartache to worsen. She was plagued by the first part of it...
“What am I going to do when the last of the flowers has withered and died?”
On the last day the studio was open, she went home early in the evening and filled the flower vase with water. One day after another passed. Each day the flowers became a little less beautiful, until they all died...
All but one
To her incredible surprise, she discovered one of the flowers was actually a silk rose. It, just like Jonas’s love, would never die.
And now my last story to share...
In February of 2014 I became friends with a man in Tom’s River NJ in America. Over these past nine years, I am proud to say we have become very close. I have a great deal of respect for him because I know the path he had to follow in his life has not been an easy one.
But the day I was the proudest of our friendship came when I knew he felt safe with me. I knew it was not an easy thing to do. He opened up to me about the most private and personal parts of his life, knowing he could trust me...even having never met me. I will forever treasure this particular friendship because of its uniqueness. Though we have never met, I do indeed consider him to be one of my closest and dearest friends.
My friend demonstrates courage and perseverance every day of his life. Things that most people take for granted, he must fight for or be wary of. He loves his family dearly and his friends completely.
Honor and integrity are at his core
And so when I read this last story that I am about to share, back in December of 2016, it made me think of him. It caused my respect for him to grow exponentially. Until today, I have not mentioned this story to him. I hope he is reading this today...
When James Muir first saw Richard Dorst, he claims his heart went “pitter pat!” Literally!
The two men met in the 1950’s, both students at Julliard where they shared a love for music. That love for the arts turned into love for each other. It was not long before they moved into an apartment and began making a life together...secretly.
James had been married before, and was divorced. The marriage produced one child...a son named Paul. Richard helped raise him when the boy's mother abandoned him. When Paul died in 1983, as the result of an automobile crash, the two helped each other through the grieving process.
For many years, they had to hide the truth of their affection for one another, because ours is a cruel and intolerant world. For decades they stayed together. Despite the vicious comments and destructive homophobia that is ever so alive and well in America, they persevered and their love for each other flourished.
In 2011, the couple finally had something to really celebrate!
The State of New York recognized gay marriage and for the first time ever, James and Richard could move out of the shadows and into the light of day. They applied for their marriage license and sent out their wedding invitations.
Over the weekend before their wedding day they celebrated with family and friends, writing their vows and practicing the love songs they wanted to sing to each other at their ceremony.
Sixty-one years after their paths were first destined to cross, James Muir, at age 84, and Richard Dorst, who had just turned 91, were married in a quiet ceremony in their backyard, surrounded by everyone who had loved them and supported them for all those years.
So, what is my message today? It is a simple one...
I invite you all to slow down your lives!
Look beyond instant gratification.
Good things do indeed come to those who wait, but more often than not we must go out and get them. You see, some things, the really important ones, take time.
We’ve becoming an impatient and lazy society.
We’ve allowed this obsession to shape our approach to our relationships.
But successful relationships aren’t handed over on a plate! They are not downloaded at 4G speed at the click of a mouse. They are not ours in twenty-four hours for just $19.99 plus shipping!
We’ve become so addicted to instant gratification that we’ve become blind to the impact it has had on our lives. We want instant lunch, instant cure, instant miracles, instant salary, instant success...
It has all made us grow much too impatient in virtually every aspect of life. One would have to be blind to not see how poorly that is serving us!