Bearing both their burdens and their scars?
- Johnny Cash, Out Among The Stars
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There is this: lay down your weary tune.
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Because of me, my father discovered espresso late in life. This was a man who had no problem reheating two day old coffee, and man I tell you what, he loved espresso. I bought him some cups and one of those Italian stove top percolators to make his own. When he died, among all his possessions, I wanted those cups and that little silver coffee maker. This morning, for the first time in the 21 years since he moved on I made coffee in that pot and drank out of one of those cups. I don't know why I hadn't done so sooner. Maybe I treated them like holy relics. Maybe I just liked to see them perched in my kitchen, but my coffee maker broke a few days ago and I wanted some damn coffee and I used what was at hand.
Might have been the best coffee I ever had.
My dad was indefatigable. If there was work to be done, he was the man to do. But he was as weary as he was strong, burdened by a rough start in life that left him wanting to trust life, but never quite able to. Stoic isn't the half of it. Fathers are like that - opaque without meaning to be. When he got sick he was relieved. The show was closing. No more burdens, no more walking a worried floor, no more, no more, no more. But then, but then, but then he did something remarkable. My brother and I didn't want him to go. We asked him to fight a bit longer, to carry his burden a while longer for us. And he did. It cost him, but he did.
You see, right then, right then, right when he was closing the curtains because he'd been so damned tired from all the battles, all the struggles just to pay the bills, from letting go of his dreams so he could feed me and my brother, he found something he'd been looking for all his life: love.
He knew he was dying and no amount of chemo was going to stop it, but he pushed back those curtains so me and my brother could have once last dose of the love he had to give: I'll do this for you, man. He saw it all the way through. His famous words to me were, "Alright, I'll kick this along as far as I can."
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We are all burdened and scarred, my friends, my brothers, my sisters. We are burden by our mistakes, our regrets, the decisions of others and it wearies us; it winnows our soul to a feathery fray and we come to believe the weariness is permanent, our due, our punishment for ever wanting anything in this world. But it is not so. I tell you upon your face, it is not so.
If you quit half way, if you stop trying, if you doubt yourself so deeply that all your dreaming stops, then you are as fucked as fucked can be. You have already closed the curtains on what is possible in your life and, in effect, you're just waitin' round to die. But if you pick up that mantle and you push on, and you set your weariness aside, treat it and your grief like a falling leaf, and find the courage to take a step in the surrounding darkness you will find that your spirit will not fail, though your body will some day collapse. Waiting for you to take that step is the love you still have to give, to offer to those closest to you, to those unknown to you, to your time. You can choose to believe that your life is the sum of your burdens and scars, or you can choose to carry them lightly for the sake of others, for the sake of your own sense of purpose and belonging. It is up to you.
And the coffee's better, too.
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I stood unwound beneath the skies
And clouds unbound by laws
The cryin’ rain like a trumpet sang
And asked for no applause
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