“For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day-to-day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.” Viktor E. Frankl
“The meaning of life. The wasted years of life. The poor choices of life. God answers the mess of life with one word: ‘grace.'” Max Lucado
Getting over the election overshadowed much of last week for me. Usually, I am a news junkie. I couldn’t watch the end of it. It felt like watching some terrible unexpected accident unfold. The odd thing is I often have voted for a candidate who didn’t win, but I had never been this depressed and distressed. I felt like there was a sinking pit in my stomach, the same feeling I have often gotten on a roller coaster as it drops precipitously.
When I was a child, we used to visit family in Buffalo and then cross the Peace Bridge to go to Crystal Beach in Canada. We’d swim at the beach and go to the amusement park there. It was rudimentary by Disney standards, but it had a fantastic roller coaster. The Comet, reconstructed in 1947 from the 1927 Cyclone, was and still is considered by many as one of the all-time world’s best roller coasters.
Only the big kids got to ride it. Year after year I waited to grow, and the excitement built until finally my cousin, Paula, and I were tall enough to reach the height limit. I still remember the build up as the cars slowly moved up the slope of first hill leading to the first peak. We were tipped backward, getting more and more scared and then, the 87 foot drop.
We shrieked, we shut our eyes, terrified, fighting the tears the wind speeding past brought to them. Up and down and round corners that made you feel you would fly off the rails, the Comet never failed to bring the feeling that the bottom was dropping out beneath us and the world was about to end. We thought we would surely die and felt the thrill of surviving afterwards.
(In its honor, let me just say it was so good and so notorious it still exists to this day.)
Years later, Crystal Beach unveiled The Wild Mouse. It was a Coaster of sorts. It had quick fast turns and small but quick up and down hills.
Instead of long cars holding pairs in rows, the Mouse had cars seating four. It had plenty of g-forces, but what I remember the most was bumping my knees on the bars and slamming into Paula, and her into me, hard, as we were shaken and twisted in this wild ride.
I only rode it once.
Last week, after the long build up of a bumpy, brutal campaign, the bottom dropped out for me in the election. I was left shaken and afraid. The Wild Mouse had won.
Yet, the week ended with a wonderful celebration. On Saturday, there was a different kind of mounting excitement as family started to gather. Doug’s brothers flew in, and next my cousins, and finally Doug’s former intern, Michaela, arrived from New York with her sister. We all joined some local friends for a dinner at a local restaurant. We joked and laughed, toasts were given, and we recounted family stories.
Sunday, after 45 years of ministry, Doug held his last service at the Edenton Presbyterian Church and retired. Following the service was a celebration dinner and then a “This is Your Life” program filled with humor and laughter.
There were letters from colleagues lauding his ministry with tenderness and touching recollection, and speeches including one by our daughter that I will never forget. The end of last week’s ride was filled with shared love and yes…surrounded by family and friends…it was filled with grace.
That afternoon, for a few hours, our grandchildren got to know family who last saw them as infants or small children. Then, Doug’s brothers left to meet their flights home and our kids left for Raleigh and work. Sunday night, my cousins, Michaela and her sister sat around our dining room table with us continuing the laughter and the denouement of this special occasion. Monday, after meeting for coffee, our cousins left for New York. Today, Michaela and Gabriella will leave. Luckily, this has been the gentlest of slopes, and our twin grandchildren, Ella and Grey, who are on a school track out, remain to ease any bumps of re-entry into ordinary valley time.
Next weekend will bring another peak experience, Sunday, the final walk through at the house we are buying, and next Monday will be our closing. We will then own the first home that is really ours.
You see, life is a roller coaster ride. So, even though some roller coasters are bumpier than other, and we are not sure where the next ride will take us, we are still ready to go. Why? Because cushioned by the love of family and friends, we know the ride will be often so sweet that even during times when we experience slams in life that bang us up, it is worth it.
Grace is always waiting at the end of the line.