Saturday, August 24, 2013

Swallows, Beets and Death

Fried Egg Sandwich
Barn Swallows
Harvesting Fruits of the Dirt
See Life
See Love
Seek God
The day begins with a fried egg sandwich--melted cheddar cheese on on an oven-toasted English muffin and topped with peppercorn bacon and an egg fried in bacon grease. It ends with tummy-shaking tears that come from the shock of finding out that a loved one has walked out of an oncology center with a certified ticket to eternity. Bacon and cancer like alpha and omega.

There are birds and gardening in between. There always is; life goes on. Barn swallows fledge their loved ones without worrying about the ginger cat, slinking into the woodshed. Instead they rapidly beak-tweet as if life emits from the lungs of swallows, and maybe it does. Maybe that's what the breath of life sounds like. Swallow chatter.

Dust to dust. It's a common funeral prayer--earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust--but not actually scripture. Genesis 2:7 reads, "Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." It's what we do when we are a living being that matters.

Gardening is an act of faith, believing that life indeed can be born in dirt. Seeds, water, sunshine, shoots, leaves, flowers, bees, butterflies and I'm eating zucchini every way I can think to fix it. My garden bursts with life and today I harvest beets, squash-on-steroids, a cucumber and beans.

Pulling the beets from the dirt, I realize--this is it. Life ends and I feel as though I need to pray over the hole it has left in the ground. That there are younger beets still growing--having staggered the planting--I am heartened that beets will continue to thrive in this dirt yielding life. And a messy life at that, so I tend to my messes and pull weeds and cull parsnips and decide to leave the rest of the peas on the vine so the seeds will dry for planting next season.

Thus are the choices we make everyday.

Death is a taboo subject. We ask in hushed tones, "Who is it?" as if it might be catching, as if there is anything we can do to stop the end. We talk obsessively of avoiding death, quantifying weight and nutrients and calories burned as if it adds a day of life to our time. Recently my Mom spoke to me of blood pressure and the importance of managing it. Her point was that her mother and grandmother both died of strokes.

My point is that they died, just as their mothers and grandmothers died. Just like she will die and I will die. I have yet encountered a remedy for death. Everyone dies, but we cover our ears and shake our heads and shake our fingers at one another admonishing, "You should do this, do that..."

Yes, managing blood pressure is taking responsibility for one's health and obviously I believe in eating fresh food and getting exercise and sunshine. I even drink water, believing it is good for my body when really I'd rather drink coffee all morning and wine all night.

But what if living means accepting that death is inevitable? What if it means getting that oncology report and asking, "Really? I'm going to die? Had no idea!"

What we need to do is not be ruled by the timeline. The key is breath of life. Yes, the key is swallow chatter  that God breathed into our dusty nostrils like spiritual CPR. That certificate to eternity is one we all were born with, and to think any one can give us an actual expiration date is profane. I don't look at my garden and see winter. I don't look at my green beans see dried leaves. I don't look at my field of potatoes and see dirt.

I cannot see death when there is yet breath of life.

Even the beets pulled from the path today are not done. They have purpose--pickled, sautéed in butter. For us it's a legacy, it's how we lived, not how we died. Did we teach children to read? Did we travel the world, drink beer in Germany, smile at a stranger in Italy, encourage others to dream? Scripture tells us to look at the fruits. My beets are hearty, but my loved one has shared his heart. I see the fruits in children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, marriage and art.

But there is more than dust to dust. There is more than breathing swallow chatter and leaving behind the spiritual fruits as solid as beets from the ground.

Do you know Jesus?

My saviour is yours to know, too. Jesus is not church, condemnation or crap. Jesus is bloody death on a cross to cover our sins. We all sin. Get over it. Get to know God through His son. Jesus overcame hell and shattered the shadow of the grave. All you need to do is ask Jesus to save you and call you out of death. Get lost in love at the cross.



  1. What a treasure to begin my day with the reading of yours. Amen! to your to your thoughts, your invitation, to Life, to Death, and to Love.

  2. In truth I was intimidated by what flowed out in my writing. Posting took some courage so you don't know how important it is to hear validation. Thank you, Ruth!