A book I am reading starts with these simple lines:
Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
Two months ago this evening, my dad drew his last breath. He fell while exercising at the Y (likely from a stroke), drove himself to a "doc-in-box" and 4 hours later, he died. Much like the solitary life he led, he died without family or friends by his side. After 80 years of breathing in, breathing out, my dad stopped.
This summer, I came down with walking pneumonia - not a great condition if you are playing hospital chaplain. I am prone to pneumonia, so I was familial with the sensation of feeling like someone is sitting on your chest as you breath in and out. They gave me some antibiotics and talked out a breathing regime. A friend notes that the term breathing regime suggests a design flaw.
These past few days were a bit of a dip for me - the depression came on to me like a slow moving cold front, to quote John Hiatt. My mind and soul just could not catch breath, with something or someone sitting on my metaphysical chest. No typical tricks helped - football proved no refuge, nor did movies or reading or exercise.
Last night my wife and I went to church here, a rag tag community that feels like home. At some point in this gathering for the first Sunday in Advent, I was overcome with the realization that these people were breathing for me, that I could draw into my lungs their stories of healing for Joey (whose tumor went from 6 cm to 3 cm), stories of the wonder of Narnia, sounds of U2 and This little Light of Mine (with special NorCal lyrics). When we got to the creed, I was struck that the lines started with we, not I - that maybe this Sunday I did believe a certain thing, but that someone in the community gathered did and that this was more than enough to fill my lungs and my heart and my soul.
As I set out on this 3rd month of being a fatherless son, on this first week of Advent, I will try to breath in and out, to be still and to hear my breath mix with others.