Reflections on Two Lives

Twice today I received news of death.

The first was my uncle who passed away early this morning. I love this man. He was an amazing pianist who could improvise in a way I have long admired.

I remember on the rare occasions he came to town, if we were anywhere that had a piano he would sit at that piano and, without a single sheet of music since he couldn’t read music, play and play and play. No pauses, no changing of pieces, just from one musical idea to the next. He mostly played Boogie Woogie and the rhythms and melodies that man would play moved my soul to overwhelming cheer every time.

I looked up to him and as a budding musician I remember admiring his ability to get lost in his own music; to be so enthralled in what he was doing that it became his whole world for those moments he was at the piano.

During those times I heard him play, the music would eventually come to a somewhat abrupt end, silence would fill the room and he’d shut the piano. He’d get a look about him as if he was giving this musical world he had just created one last look. Then he’d stand up and walk away.

Not once did I ever see him sit down and play again when people asked him to keep going. When he was done, he was done.

As an adult I think I admired him even more. Not in the start struck way a child admires but in a respectful, understanding way. My uncle was by no means a perfect man and had many a trouble throughout his life, though I’m not sure what else you’d expect from someone who escaped out a window and ran away from home at the age of about three.

He spoke loudly, often rudely and knew just how to get people riled up. In fact, I was pretty terrified of him as a young child. But, he had an artist’s soul and I think he saw the beauty in things that others maybe passed by.  He saw potential in me and somehow was able to let me know that despite the fact we only saw each other or spoke every several years.

I think as he grew older his heart softened about things. The last time we talked he spoke of his admiration for me as a music teacher and it wasn’t until just now that I can see how things have come full circle between us.

The second time I received news of someone’s death today was of a dear friend of mine’s daughter who had died of cancer. She lived in another state than her mother and they were not on good terms and hadn’t been for a long time.

Horrible things happened to this daughter long ago and I know that her mother has been suffering for many years knowing what her daughter went through and not having her daughter in her life any more.

When I heard this second news I immediately thought of the coincidence that these two people had died on the same day. They lived in different states, lived very different lives and died from different causes. Yet, they were welcomed to their next home the same day.

I know that they are now both freed from the pain they suffered from in this life and have found happy reunions with those who have gone before them. I know my grandma, grandpa and uncle are, right now, laughing together.

Though these two souls are in the same situation now, I can’t help but reflect on how different the affects and situations are that they have left behind.

My uncle lived a long and good life. He has family that knew him and visited him and deeply cared for him. We can find peace and comfort in these things.

My friend’s daughter however, did not get to live a long life and, from what her mother has shared with me, it was a hard, rough life. Those close family bonds were missing and I can’t help but wonder if she felt alone. The grief that is left to this family seems a much more difficult one to bear.


The Dropbox

The other night I learned about a new documentary called “The Dropbox”. It’s about a pastor in South Korea with a disabled son who spent 14 years in a hospital. Through this trial he developed great love for those with disabilities.
Sadly, in South Korea (and other places in the world) there is a growing problem with mothers abandoning their newborns in the streets for various reasons, one being if the child is disabled.
Pastor Lee Jong-rak saw this problem first hand and wanted to do something to help. He installed a “baby box” in the wall of his home to give mothers an alternative to leaving their babies in the streets. It has a door on both sides of the wall and inside are warmers and a blanket. When a baby is put in from the outside a bell rings on the inside and the pastor comes to take the baby out of the box. Most drop-offs are anonymous.
This man and his wife currently have nearly fifteen children in their home. It is an orphanage but the difference is that these kids have a mom and dad. He and his wife have adopted many of them and care for them as their own.
When watching just a snippet from the trailer my heart broke for these little abandoned babies, the mothers and the people who are trying to make a difference. I cried. A lot.
Later I told my husband about it and cried again, but we had a really good discussion about helping others and how we should find ways to serve that utilize the talents we have been given.
I have always had this fear in the back of my mind that I am supposed to someday serve in an extremely emotionally difficult place, like an orphanage in a third world country or helping kids who have been abused.
It terrified me because, when I hear of things like abuse, neglect, torture and hatred, I have such gut wrenching reactions. I feel physically sick to my stomach and have an urge to run away from whatever it is.
Thinking about this documentary has helped to ease both my fear and my reaction to such situations.
In fact, I want to see it.
Before, I couldn’t even bring myself to watch the trailer. Now I have seen it and I want to see the film. Mainly because of this: when I saw a short clip of a little baby not much younger than my own trying his best to crawl but unable to lift his misshapen head off the floor my heart broke and I couldn’t think beyond that moment. Then I realized that little boy is older now, his life has gone on, he deals with it.
It calms my initial flight response when I see that there is more, that life goes beyond that crisis moment of being diagnosed, abused or abandoned. Yes, there is a severe aftermath, trials and effects from these horrendous events. But morning always comes. It may not be a morning free of pain and grief – at least not in this life – but things do go on. Solutions are sought. People cope. And as for those sweet little ones who do not survive the night, they truly wake to a glorious morning with an assured place with our Savior and Father in Heaven, never to be hurt again.

It is these thoughts, these realizations that help me not be so afraid to learn more about people in need… and to not be afraid to help when and where I can.

“The Dropbox” will be in select theaters March 3-5. Kindred Image is an organization started by the creators of the documentary in order to help Pastor Lee’s ministry and their website is a helpful place to learn more.