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Posts Tagged ‘Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’

stock_29_footprints_desert_by_monarxy_stocks-d35k178Dear Friends,

As some of you know, my family suffered a tragedy the 7th of September, when my brother-in-law was swimming in Ocean City, Maryland, and suffered a broken neck of the C1 and C2 vertebrae, the same injury as Christopher Reeves. This has rocked our world and turned it upside down, as you can imagine.  Currently, things have stabilized, but doctors hold out little hope for Brent to recover any function below his neck, including the ability to breathe on his own.  My sister is maintaining courageously, but the daily round of travel, long hospital visits, grim prognosis from doctors, caring for a 14 year-old, two dogs, a home, and financial pressures certainly are a heavy weight upon her.  As our family has processed this loss, and the way in which life can turn upside down in a heartbeat, I’ve been meditating on how we as humans deal with crisis.  I’ve suffered the full range of emotions, a heavy sense of grief, a feeling of powerlessness, feelings of panic and intense anxiety for my sister and her husband and daughter.  I’ve also experienced what they call “survivor’s guilt” and the ways in which guilt can plague those who witness this type of tragedy up close and personal.  I haven’t sorted out all these feelings and I’m certain there are more to come.  In the meantime, I’m trying to process what it means to walk in the “joy of the Lord” in the midst of tragedy and trauma.  I confess I’m not there yet, but am hoping that I can learn through this what Nehemiah meant when he said, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (8:10).

As I was pondering this today I remembered the following Longfellow poem that my children and I had memorized many years ago. The verses about the footprints kept coming back to me:

Lives of great men all remind us
   We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
   Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
   Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
   Seeing, shall take heart again.
The above verses have taken on a concrete reality for me in the past few days.  The stories of heroic individuals, a dear friend who is a quadriplegic, Christopher Reeves, and many other truly courageous individuals who have chosen to face the devastating loss of mobility with courage and grace have brought courage and strength to me.  I have felt forlorn and shipwrecked with the overwhelming challenges my sister faces, and how to best help her and Brent.  But the stories of those who have walked this same road have enabled me to “take heart again.” I hope that whatever you are facing today can be viewed through the light of the words below, remembering that the choices we make leave footprints for those who follow behind.  I hope I can become better at choosing to live life with grace and joy, and watch how God is able to transform tragedy into triumph.
As my sister is under tremendous financial pressure, If you feel inclined to help her and her family at this time, you can visit this link.  All donations are tax-deductible and 100% of the money will go directly to my sister and husband to pay for daily living expenses.  Thank you.

A Psalm of Life

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist.

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
   Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
   And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
   And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
   Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
   Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
   Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
   And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
   Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
   In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
   Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
   Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
   Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
   We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
   Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
   Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
   Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
   With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
   Learn to labor and to wait.

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