One of my daughters (she shall remain nameless) recently voiced her concern that I’m going to “drop-dead” any day. Citing my occasional noontime consumption of Pepperidge Farm oat bread (processed!) with my peanut butter, she stated: “Your diet is horrible.” In fact, my diet is largely vegetarian and she prepares much of what I eat.
As to imbibing alcoholic beverages, she stated: “Beer is bad for you.” I replied: “Actually, in moderation, I don’t believe it is. In fact, hell will freeze over before I stop drinking beer!” I further pointed out that I workout at the gym several times a week. It failed to impress her.
In fairness, her anxiety may stem from having been out of the country when I had a cardiac “non-event” (my word) last winter. Granted, I have underlying bicuspid aortic valve disease (a congenital condition) but it’s being closely monitored. Sure, my grandfather and great-grandfather died of heart disease, the former while watching TV with a neighbor “the [Fire] department men being unsuccessful in their attempt to revive the stricken man.” And, yes, on her maternal side, there’s a similar issue with high cholesterol and cardiac disease.
Perhaps she’s beginning to sense how vulnerable she is—how vulnerable we all are—in the face of life’s fragility. No longer just an idea, the feeling of impermanence may be taking up residence in her soul. Not surprising that this is occurring even as she is seeking her own way of living wholeheartedly and authentically in the world. What some might call finding a spiritual path.
We’ve just made plans to join her in England for Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we hope to attend A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at the fifteenth century King’s College Chapel in Cambridge. She’s never known a Christmas without listening to the live broadcast. This year, we’ll all be together in that hallowed space, and it will be our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels. That simple message: the holy presence at the heart of all—all that’s most fragile, most vulnerable—like a candle in the dark.