You are not a baby any more. But I remember the soft warmth of you, wrapped in a blanket, only minutes into the world. I remember being sorry, a little, that you were not my secret any more; the tiny miracle inside me whose movements were a mysterious knowing. I remember being amazed that, with two other little ones already such an important part of my life, you could carve a unique space in my heart, wholly your own, that would only ever be yours.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
You are not a little boy any more; the precocious one running ahead on every hike to climb something, or crawl inside or over something, just to know what lay beyond. And yet, you have done a better job than most of retaining the best parts of being young.
Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.
Curiosity: The way you used to enter a hotel room and within minutes know the combination to the safe, which toiletries had been provided, and where to find all electrical outlets, as well as the Gideon Bible. Now, your curiosity leads you to the best music and YouTube videos, to killer electronic equipment, to stories about the Holocaust and human suffering.
Optimism: Not so much naivety as a conscious choice to believe the best about everyone. To give your all to each relationship, to every endeavor, with a firm belief that others will do the same. Perhaps you have been disappointed at times. But I also believe that sometimes your faith in others calls from them something they do not know they have to give. And that is a gift. To them. To the world.
If I live to be a hundred, I will never forget standing in the hallway of the humanities building at your college, waiting to lay down a couple of piano tracks for your digital audio recording project. The hall was full of students between classes who must have wondered what this strange old lady was doing loitering in the hall. Then you walked through a door, and the hall erupted with “Josh!!”, “Hey Josh!”, “Joshie!” And I knew, for a moment, what it must be like to be the mother of someone famous. 🙂
Audacity: Kids always believe they can do or be anything they set their minds to. It is only as adults that we begin to place borders and qualifiers and excuses around all our best dreams. And yet, you dream on…
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
You are not a teenager any more. And I don’t even know what to do with this. Though you will always be my baby boy, you are a man. You make grown-up man choices like working a job you need even if you don’t love it, like buying insurance and your own clothes, like choosing the next right step in your life even if the way is unclear…
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
This is a threshold moment. You are on the edge of ripening into that which you have long been preparing to be. And I can hardly wait to see where all this leads. Know that wherever life takes you, Dad and I will always be here, cheering you on. The world needs you, best beloved. We need your compassion, your courage, and your creativity. Give us all you’ve got.
I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
Happiest of birthdays, my dear son!! I could not be more proud of you. I love you! May God grant you many, many years!!
*Bottom four photos, taken by Josh. The one just above those, taken by Kari. Photo of tiny Josh and Gatlin taken by Wendi.