Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Temporary Container

The piece below was first published November 25th, 1999 in the Seaside Signal newspaper when I was the general manager.

Whenever stress starts to tighten my jaw and make my stomach churn, I have learned to practice a little ritual that helps me regain my balance, relax and wade back into the business at hand.
I simply count my blessings.
This is not something I've always done. There was a time when I counted my challenges, my glass was half-empty and I was convinced that only my vigilant worry was what kept the wolves at bay.
It didn't help this attitude and approach to life that I was also a firefighter and EMT and had daily up close and personal experiences with the awful tragedies that can impact our individual lives without warning, without reason and without mercy.
Now, a little older, hopefully wiser, I have come to realize that I was focusing on the wrong things.
When sad, or worried, or stressed out - whatever the problem, I take a moment to count my blessings and know how fortunate I truly am. Remembering this helps me to understand that the difficulties facing me will pass.
This past weekend I had the awesome honor of helping my brother-in-law scatter the ashes of his beloved - a wife and mother taken at a very young age by a terrible debilitating disease.
With the widowed husband and his two boys present, I carefully unwrapped the plastic box containing the cremated remains. Molded into the lid of this nondescript featureless box were the words "Temporary Container."
I told the children that those words not only talked about the box, but the contents as well. Our bodies are simply that - "temporary containers" - and we should see ourselves as souls temporarily inhabiting bodies, instead of bodies with souls.
It was a very emotionally charged day. The ceremony was simple but eloquent. there were tears shed, but the relief of closure was present as well.
I remained at the site after everyone else had begun walking back toward our cars. I was filled with a profound sense of loss and I struggled to find "the blessing" so I could move on.
I counted my own blessings - my home is filled with love, we have our health and while our possessions are fewer than we would hope, they are far more than we truly need.
but what of this lonely man and his two young sons? Where was the blessing?
I turned to see the others, some distance away now and a thought, sweet and soft like a whispered secret, entered my mind - "Look at my beautiful sons!"
Looking again to where her scattered ashes lay, I whispered back, "Yes, you did a wonderful job."
This Thanksgiving, put aside your worries and your stress. Though for some it may be terribly hard, allow yourself to find your blessings. I pray you can.
We all live in "temporary containers" and our physical lives are but a brief moment that fades all too quickly.
But oh, such joy is ours, if only we take the time, even in adversity, to count our blessings.

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