in the Grand Canyon is one of those lifetime events that you look forward to with mixed anticipation and dread, knowing that you're probably not going to drown but that the possibility is there. And even if you don't get thrown out of the boat, it's going to be a big challenging experience, especially if you're in small boats with a private trip. Which is the only way I've ever run any river.
I woke up in the night recently thinking about the upcoming weekend (the one that started last night, actually) with the same kind of anticipatory dread that two runs through Lava many years ago inspired in me: will I make it through? will anything go wrong? have I considered all the logistics, the people involved, the needs of others in the boat? is the equipment solid? what if we lose an oar? or the food goes overboard? or, heaven forfend, if the boat flips?
When we put in at Lee's Ferry for both those trips, Lava loomed big. It was way down the river, days and days away from the starting point of the trip, but it was The Rapid, the one that---successfully run---marked an outstanding trip. You wanted to hit it just right, good water level even though that meant that the holes were big and the waves bigger, riding the tongue down into the first drop, keeping the boat pointed downstream, not sideways, and being spit out on the other side of the maelstrom upright, with all passengers aboard, and no loss of cargo.
This weekend has loomed like that for me ever since circumstances dictated that we have Baird's memorial service tomorrow right after church. Family needs came first in planning the service, not anything else, and that's as it should be. It just meant that the weekend was jammed with both professional and personal events for me, none of which I could easily jettison.
All my usual mechanisms came into play, the good ones and the not-so-good ones. First of all, it was clear that since I would be preaching at 10 a.m. and officiating the memorial at 1 p.m., I would have to set priorities about which was more important. I'd planned to preach on DADT, since it was pre-Veterans Day, but the thought of writing a sermon on that gloomy topic while grieving the loss of one of our dearest members-----I didn't think I could do it. So the topic was the first to go and I pulled out one of my favorite oldies, "Hope Has Human Hands". (It will go up here on Sunday.)
That decision made, it was clear I could let go of anxiety about the worship service, at least once I had checked the church website listing of sermons preached during the past years. I don't think I've offered this one for years. But it's a good one to precede the farewells to be said during the memorial service.
I use a flexible template for both the memorial service and for my own reflections about life and death. Though I adapt each one to the circumstances, I know what I want to cover and don't try to reinvent the wheel each time; I know what my own grief requires and I'm not a very creative thinker when I'm writing a memorial service. But I always want to include my own thoughts about the life of the deceased and that requires thought and writing time.
With extra planning and help from my wonderful worship leader T, I was able to be ready for the worship service by Tuesday. Tuesday evening I started to get the first pangs of muscle spasms in my back, signaling the tension build-up that often accompanies stress in my life. An acupuncture treatment took up some extra time but diminished the symptoms a bit. Time spent with the heating pad ate into my work schedule but I managed to get everything done by Friday morning, so that I could squeeze in a lectionary meeting and a rehearsal.
A rehearsal? Yes, because Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m. the band has a gig. We're doing a private party for friends. Fortunately, I haven't lost my voice during this run-up to The Metaphorical Rapid.
Sunday morning at 10, we head into the turbulent waters of The Big One and by 3 p.m. (since we have to be out of the building before the Quakers arrive for their service) we'll be floating into the tail of the whitewater. And then it will be jubilation time----we made it! And singing we will go into the eddy below Lava to celebrate a successful run.
I have no doubts about whether this will go well. There might be some glitches, but the planning has been adequate, I have lots of help for every hole and wave, and if the boat flips, it will be an accident that couldn't be avoided.
And, I suspect, by Monday morning my muscle spasms will be gone. I've at least learned that fighting them (just like fighting water) just makes them worse. Learning to relax consciously when they strike is the best thing I've come across for pain reduction. Sort of like letting the life jacket take over when you get thrown out of the boat. Yeah, like that.