September 6th, 2021
“Once Khidr went to the king’s palace and made his way right up to the throne. Such was the strangeness of his appearance that none dared to stop him.
The king, who was Ibrahim ben Adam, asked him what he was looking for.
The visitor said, ‘I am looking for a sleeping place in caravanserai.’
Ibrahim answered, ‘This is no caravanserai, this is my palace.’
The stranger said, ‘Whose was it before you?’
‘My father’s,’ said Ibrahim.
‘And before that?’
‘And this place, where people come and go, staying and moving on, you call other than a caravanserai?’ “
from The Way of the Sufi
Father Michael gave the homily at Mass on Sunday. The topic of his sermon was how we often taking others for granted. We assume (I know I do) that a person we love and need will be always be there for us, even when experience proves that assumption to be false at times. Our relationships with other people are fragile and transient, and therefore precious. Individuals enter our lives unexpectedly, and then leave in the same way.
Our grandson, Asher, came into our lives quite suddenly nine months ago. He was born two months premature, and his arrival took us a bit by surprise. After four weeks in the NICU, the little boy came into our home, and he has been part of our family ever since. We love this baby, and we are amazed at how quickly he is growing and developing. The fact is that every morning we meet a new child when we first see Asher. He is not the person he was last month, or last week, or even yesterday. He is constantly with us, but he is already in the process of leaving us.
Over the years, many people have entered my life, stayed a while, and then left again. Some of them I failed to appreciate until they were gone. I have tried to maintain contact with a number of them, with middling success. Sometimes our relationship can continue in a different fashion than before. Sometimes that is not possible, and with great reluctance I have had to let them go.
People leave our lives for various reasons. Sometimes they move far away. Geographical distance does not always doom a friendship, but it can make it difficult to keep alive. Often people change. Their attitudes and values shift, and the things that we held in common no longer exist. Without continuous interaction, a friend can quickly become a stranger. Life events split friends apart. The arrival of Asher into our family has forced me to curtail many outside activities. This in turn has weakened or ended the connections I had with those who shared my interests.
People die. Two of my friends have died during the last year. They are irretrievably gone. There is no chance of us reuniting in this world. As I grow older, this very permanent separation happens more often.
I thought about my wife and myself, as I listened to the priest’s sermon on Sunday.
My wife and I take pains to appreciate each other. Since we have to care for Asher full time, we need to do that as a team. It is impossible for one of us to raise Asher alone. Karin and I are very aware of our mortality. We are both in our 60’s, and neither of us knows how much more time we have on earth.
We do not take each other for granted.