Counting the days…counting the stars…counting the cars at a train crossing. There are so many ways we spend our time counting things. Since my experience with physical therapy this past year, counting has taken on a whole new meaning for me.
My therapist name is Grace (of course). She has worked me and walked me through two separate stints (1,2) on the PT circuit. The first one surely has informed the second. But what has been interesting to me is how I find myself counting differently now. After my knee replacement this past summer, and my current recovery following my meniscus surgery, Grace is moving me from here to there and back again ~ through the number system.
"Quad lifts – `30' with 4 lb weights." Numbers. "Balance on the left leg for 30 seconds." Counting. "Bridges - `30' with a smile, please." Numbers and counting. Starting with “1” and building from there. It matters. Each one. But only when they’re all bunched up together can I feel that burn and know that something is working; know that something is shifting. All this counting means that my leg is getting stronger. These numbers, each one…is helping healing happen.
Recently I attended a funeral of a 102 year old woman (imagine counting her days). Her son-in-law, obviously not a public speaker, stood to speak words about this lady he had known half his life. He began by telling us that his son had advised him to count (“1,2,3,4,5”) when he got nervous about speaking to us. [My hunch is that his son intended that he count silently, but…). He spoke about their trips together, “1,2,3,4,5”; the ways he had seen how she’d `mothered’ his wife by the way she `grandmothered’ his children, “1,2,3,4,5”; the ways she taught him about compassion and kindness “1,2,3,4,5.” As we listened we realized that these numbers were woven into his words about her. And I wondered if sometimes she was whispering them in his ear as he was speaking. It was such a beautiful tribute of love living on (“1,2,3,4,5”).
There is a sense of counting our way through these Advent days. Like those Advent calendars we had when we were kids (or maybe still have now) that seemed to slow everything down ~ too much so most days. But these calendars taught us about marking each day. With this calendar we counted our way through the month of December until the last door could be opened and we could see what had been waiting all along.
We count because it helps us focus. We count because it brings us balance and can calm our anxiety. We count so that we can measure how far or how long. We count so that we can get from here to there. We count so that we can measure how far today, so we’re not as afraid and so we can do a little bit more again tomorrow.
Breath prayer: “waiting” “a little more”
Holy One you number our days. We are leaning into you this day, and counting on your lovingkindness and compassion. As our prayer draws us closer to you, we sometimes add words just to stay a little bit longer in this time of waiting in your presence. Holy One teach us to count our blessings this day, and to count the ways we might better love and serve you. Amen.
Thanks, Susie Gentry for many of these pictures
Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.
~ Albert Einstein
believes in beginnings and beginning again, in holding on and letting go, in God's presence as close as our next breath. Lesley works as a hospice Bereavement Coordinator in Atlanta. She is an ordained minister in the UCC and has just completed her second book, "Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon in 29 Days" (to be released early in 2015).