Last Thursday the 11-year-old and his 8-year-old brother had been bickering, wrestling, leaping over laundry baskets, and skidding to a stop just inches before crashing into the table with all the houseplants. I love my children, but sometimes they’re easier to be around in small doses. “Let’s go for a walk,” I suggested after dinner. It was sunny, nearly 70 degrees, and past the halfway point in October. Such beautiful fall days are not going to be around much longer.
“Let’s walk in the cemetery,” my husband said as we neared the hole in Elmhurst’s chain link fence. We turned in and made our way to the paved trail as our boys ran circles around us. Literally. It’s not easy to walk with someone running in front of you every few steps. This walk wasn’t making me less irritated, as I’d expected it would. I tried to focus on the positive.
Then I tried distraction. I glanced to the right and read one of the gravestones: “Russell Fox 1905 – 1916.”
“Look, there’s a gravestone for Russell Fox – he only lived to be 11 years old,” I said aloud.
“That’s my age,” our older son said.
Did Russell have the same boundless energy? Did he argue with his brother hourly? Did his mom ever grow weary of his antics? How sorely she must have missed him once he was laid to rest… The circling didn’t stop, even though their daddy had asked them to quit running in front of us like that. I walked in a zigzag fashion to try to throw them off, but it only made them laugh more – and keep circling, sometimes around me, sometimes around their daddy, sometimes around both of us. I was glad that they were happy. How come I wasn’t?
“Let’s go look at the leaning tree – let’s see if it’s still standing,” my husband suggested. It’s the tree that defies gravity, leaning at such an angle you’d think it may fall any second. We talk about it – marvel at it, even – every time we walk through Elmhurst Cemetery.
But then when we look at if from another angle, that same tree seems pretty normal.
It reminds me that things aren’t always as they appear, that the same thing viewed from different perspectives can look very different. Just like my boys’ circling game. It was fun for them. It wasn’t hurting anyone. They obviously had energy to burn – and they’d found an amusing way to do it, much safer than roughhousing.
The “tipping tree” was still standing. Shortly after we passed it, another gravestone caught my eye. It was inscribed with Psalm 90: 12 “Teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
“Numbering” my days means I should recognize how few there are – and spend them well. It means I should savor this moment, spending a beautiful fall evening with people I love. Our kids are happy and healthy, thriving at school, and a blessing to our home. They make life much more interesting, even fun most days.