Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


“When death finds us, may it find us alive.”  Africa Proverb

These days of July really fly by….we all say this I am sure.  It seems that the build-up to summer through the rainy days of April and flowering days of May transport us miraculously to June.  And as a parent, June always is filled with last minute details and activities of the children finishing school.  Voila, we arrive at June 25th, the last day of school, and there is this collective breath we catch as we exhale a long sigh of relief.  We’ve made it through another school year.  Summer’s expanse opens out before us, free from having to make school lunches, and we feel full with the longer daylight.  We awake to the sun as the earth tilts on its axis bringing us more sunlight in our part of the world.

Then the 4th of July arrives and suddenly we are catapulted to the middle of July, catching our breath once more and seeing that the longest day now lies behind us.  Many of us fill up our days with much movement and activity; summer is the time that life and growth burst forth.  We wish to capture and experience each moment in its growing ripeness as summer will eventually culminate in the fruition of the autumn harvest.

Stilling ourselves in the midst of the summer frenzy, can offer a very beautiful view of the brilliance of this season.  Yesterday, I planned a visit to Buffalo’s Outer Harbor to see a live animation cinema, with a dinner stop first at my parent’s home, the same home in which I grew up.  My brother grilled hotdogs and my boys and I enjoyed a quiet and relaxed visit with my aging parents.   Both of my parents are in their mid-seventies and it is sad to see their lives closing in on them; their bodies failing them.  That is the truth though.  Our bodies do age and get sick and die.  Just as the same summer that had opened wide out before us back in June is now wending its way toward fall, and the eventual turning of all the abundant life of one season only to die in the next.  In all things, life and death reside side by side.

Each moment offers us another chance to live, really be alive with all our senses open and our mind sharp and direct.  Moment by moment we can be astounded by the life around us, by our own life itself.  This is a conscious choice we make to be aware, to be engaged, to be alive.

My same visit with my family turned into a visit with our neighbors whom I have known since I was a child.  I saw Aldo sitting out on his front porch and knew that this was a gift of the moment to spend time with someone I have known for so very long.  I sat with him on his porch bench completely relaxed talking about his recent illness and heart condition which was requiring surgery but couldn’t be done in Buffalo.  He is eighty-two, but a young full of life eight-two year old.  As it always has, it felt comfortable and good just talking about our mundane precious lives.  My father then pushed my mom in her wheel chair across to the street to us and then Aldo’s wife, Grace, joined us.  So there we four sat shooting the breeze alive, together breathing. What counted in those moments was our togetherness, the love and connection and history of what we all had shared in our lives up to that point.

When it was time to go, I kissed my neighbors farewell, and navigated my mom in her wheelchair across the street, having a bit of trouble maneuvering around the lips of the driveways.  It was funny in a way when I tried to force my mom’s chair up the driveway but was unable to get enough forward momentum to do so.  It suddenly occurred to me to tip her chair up like I used to do with the baby stroller; her ride was much more comfortable.  It is humbling for her to be in a wheelchair no longer able to walk well and it is humbling for me to see my mom in this condition.

As we made plans to leave my parents, my youngest son opted to go with my brother and his two girls to see an indoor film, and my oldest son and I left to head to the waterfront.  That evening, as we drove around the harbor looking for the event, Kailen and I talked and laughed about nothing in particular. 

After realizing we were five days too early for the event, we decided to park and take a seat on a bench by the lakefront break wall and watch the red hues of the sun blend with the low clouds hanging on the evening’s horizon over Canada.  Kailen bounded off to jump from rock to rock along the break wall as I sat and witnessed another sunset of my life.  I felt the day’s goodness well up inside of me and I gave thanks for the simple pleasures and moments of each day. 

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