Father Joe Korf began his homily for the first Sunday of Advent with those forceful words. Matthew’s gospel is bold, direct, and, for me, especially relevant. “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” Father Korf continued, warning us that we never know when God will call us to be part of his kingdom in heaven. I often have written about how short life is, but I was faced with this reality on the last day of October. I almost lost my only brother to a farm accident. It has put a new perspective on things.
I have come to realize that I have wasted a good part of this year looking for acceptance, hoping for inclusion. It has left me feeling worthless and without value. I do not have time to waste. I am ending the year having experienced a very recent tragedy and death in my family earlier in the year and likely 2020 will have the same. Instead of waiting around for things that may never happen, I can look for blessings and spend time with people where I am making a difference.
I find Christmas interesting. If I want a spatula, I will buy one. I do not understand gift giving in that way. I do, however, appreciate family traditions like baking and gathering. Time is the greatest gift. And, yet, it is the one we struggle to give. I spent time in the last couple of months with cousins I have not talked to in a long while. I spent nights at the assisted living home with my grandma before she moved into the nursing home. In both cases, these were because of death and illness, but nevertheless I am grateful for the time. I am looking for blessings where I can find them.
I have spent hours in the car recently…going to and from the hospital, to and from college drop-offs, to and from appointments. This is time I have come to value. I mowed hours of lawn with my dad this summer. It is hard work, but it is exercise and, especially, it is time with my dad. I have sat in a hospital room explaining football to my niece while my brother laughs. Yes, I was sitting in a hospital room, but the take away I had? I get to continue to hear my brother’s laughter.
Maybe Father Mike Schmitz is correct. Maybe Minnesota goodbyes are so long and drawn out because we have not said what needs to be said…so we stall, we linger. We hesitate for as long as we can, then we leave. As we leave, we think “maybe next time.” Maybe next time I will say it, tell it, do it, ask it. Meanwhile life passes by. What holds us back? In real life, things are not as they appear on social media, with “likes” and “selfies” in fabulous places. Life is not a Hallmark movie with a fairy-tale happy ending. If we wait until our lives fit those molds, we will be waiting until our time runs out. I need to stop wasting time knocking on locked doors. I am going to instead focus on the people who need my hand, who need my shoulder, and I am going to tell them what they mean.
Advent is a time for preparation. I know it is supposed to be about lights and shiny presents, but truthfully a hug in the grocery store after devastating news means far, far more. During your Minnesota goodbyes this season, instead of idle chitchat about the weather or the Vikings, use your time wisely. I will end with Father Mike’s words, “so what do I need to say, what do I need to do, what do I need to ask and what do I need to give before goodbye, to be ready to say goodbye?”