I have mentioned it elsewhere, but this bears repeating. There is something to be said for letting go of things now and then. It is certainly sound advice, for example, to suggest cutting one's losses for a long overdue repayment of a debt, when it becomes abundantly clear the borrower will never pay the lender back. While it does not seem fair, forgiving the debt makes much more sense than holding a grudge and allowing bitterness and resentment to seep in.
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In a greater sense, grief is a similar process by which, through trial and necessity, one may learn the benefits of recovering from the death of a loved one. Psychologists and counselors have waiting rooms full of folks who have not taken mourning to its completion. It is not uncommon for an elderly mate to pass away within the first year of the death of a lifelong spouse. From a survival standpoint, getting on with the business of living without a loved one can be an arduous task. Relief often comes with release.
This past Memorial Day weekend (2005), my wife, Linda, and I had the privilege of welcoming two of our favorite people into our home for an extended holiday of sorts. Our former neighbor children, Cameron and Carra (ages seven and six respectively), arrived on Thursday afternoon with the plan of staying until their father picked them up on Monday. As mentioned in other stories, their mother, Tammy, passed away on Thanksgiving weekend in 2003.
Our weekend together was filled with laughter and food, friendship and treats, togetherness and shopping, fun and new adventures. Linda has been tutoring the children for several months and they now read and spell around us like they are breathing air. It is difficult to say who is learning more, the children or us. I am learning the greatest life lessons from these two little people.
Since we have no grandchildren yet, Linda has taken it upon herself to spoil Cameron and Carra as if they were her own. Because this weekend was planned weeks in advance, Linda had activities and goodies all set aside for their arrival. In particular were two enormous kites, which I was instructed were solely for our trip to the beach on Sunday. Cameron's was a black shark and Carra's was a pink bird.
Immediately following church on Sunday, I found my son, Brian, Linda and the kids all packed for the beach and waiting for me in the parking lot. For such a busy weekend in Southern California, the traffic was unusually light. The sky was cloudy and drizzly, but it could not dampen our spirits. We arrived in a little over an hour, which was a pleasant surprise in and of itself.
Finding a parking spot was the real challenge. Balboa peninsula is a popular spot in the New Port Beach area and the place was packed to the brim. The public lots were filled to capacity and it was every-man-for-himself in finding an empty parking meter or a paint-free curb to inhabit. Twenty-five minutes later, we spotted a New Mexico license plate pulling away from a parking spot on the main drag and we were in business.
Just before we landed our parking spot, Linda mentioned phoning my best friend Charlie and asking him to join us on the beach. Charlie and his mother, Hiroko, were in Los Angeles shopping in Little Tokyo and agreed to join us. It took them quite awhile to park and find us, but we all managed to stake out a sparse patch of unpopulated sand about a mile from the closest pier. The clouds had parted and moved on; the sun and breeze were working in tandem making for a great day of beach-going.
Once we were settled on our beach plot with blankets and towels, chairs, coolers, and radio all arrayed, we ate lunch and embarked on whatever activity suited each fancy. Brain took the kids down to the water while I assembled the kites and tried to get them airborne. Cameron's kite took off in the first gust of wind and was ascending faster than the spool could feed the kite string. The large black shark with white teeth flashing loomed menacingly in the imaginary blue waters of the sky above us.
Cameron was ecstatic. He squealed with joy and took the reins of his new kite. His small wiry frame seemed as if it might be pulled skyward with one strong gust of wind. Cameron soon mastered the art of kite flying and became bored within about fifteen minutes. Brian ended up holding the reins for quite awhile afterward.
Meantime, while I was getting Cameron's kite up, Brian was assembling Carra's bird. She seemed genuinely excited, especially after seeing a big black shark flying proudly overhead. As with the shark, the wind scooped up Carra's big pink bird for about thirty feet into the sky. Just as suddenly, the bird took a nose-dive and crashed into the warm white sand. Brian tried a few more times to get the bird aloft only to experience similar crash landings.
All I could see was the disappointment on little Carra's face. Why did Cameron get the "good" kite? How come her bird wouldn't fly? This was not fair. It was not fair at all. The issue of fairness certainly seems more acute when you are a six-year-old and motherless.
As Brian took over shark duty, I began working on the pink bird. I adjusted the tail-streamers (and tied a few knots in them), disassembled and reassembled the wing struts, repositioned the nose, and considered perhaps there might have been some factory defect I could not detect. With each adjustment came a more spectacular takeoff and crash landing. It seemed fairly hopeless.
It was not for lack of wind that Carra's bird would not fly. Cameron's shark seemed to sneer at me from his vantage point, his sharp white teeth grinning with glee at my frustration. It was not for lack of knowledge on my part. I have been flying kites since I was a very small boy. No, I was forgetting something. I had to figure this out no matter how long it took me.
Then it dawned on me. It was really quite simple. Why I hadn't considered it before I attribute to being too much of a grown-up sometimes.
I forgot to believe.
I witnessed my son, Brian, crash the bird straight out of the box three times. And I lost count of my failures in the hour or so I spent wrestling with this fowl creature. Perhaps twenty, thirty, maybe forty tries with no success. Each attempt was successively more disappointing and frustrating. Yet I was not leaving that beach until I could get that kite high enough for Carra to fly it on her own. I was bound and determined to succeed, yet all of my efforts were simply not enough. It appeared to me this kite didn't have a prayer.
"Lord, I can't do this on my own," I prayed silently.
I cannot explain what happened next. There was no "Aha!" moment when I discovered a loose connection or a bent strut. There was no revelation that somehow I had been trying to make it fly with the kite inverted or using the wrong type of string. I merely looked the kite over for the umpteenth time and let it go. The wind did the rest.
The bird leapt in to the sky as if it were alive. It went straight up one hundred feet and climbing until my spool of string reached the last knot and went completely taut. A beautiful, colorful, majestic bird of paradise soared above the shark by at least thirty feet. For the next two and half hours, Carra's bird flew effortlessly until, at last, our day ended and I was forced to reel the kite back down to earth.
I lost count of the number of times I looked up at that kite and thanked God for the push.
Something else happened while that pink bird was soaring. A little girl was able to fly a kite for the very first time in her life. She felt the power of the wind harnessed by something as fragile and easily broken as a piece of string. Looking up at her kite in the bright blue of the sky, I told her she could imagine anything about herself she wanted; the sky was the limit if she believed in the possibility. After about a half hour, she handed me the control and walked back to our site to sit with Linda.
Peace. There was a quiet joy sailing above me harnessed to an unfettered sense of satisfaction below. All the time spent and the failed attempts were meaningless and quickly forgotten while watching that pink vessel traverse the heavens. I looked back over at Linda and Carra and saw Hiroko sitting and staring out at the water. I called to her and coaxed her over to the kite.
Hiroko is seventy-five years old and is like a second mother to me. Her hair is white now. She has been widowed for nearly four years. As she took the kite spool into her hand, I saw a little girl filled with wonder and joy.
In broken English, Hiroko said, "Greg, it's been sixty-five."
Not sure what she was saying, I replied, "Sixty-five what?"
"I was about ten years old. In Japan. Last time I fly kite."
We stood in silent awe watching Hiroko at the controls of this bright pink wonder. She was lost in memories rising across the years and an ocean, like a Phoenix above our heads. Occasionally she would gasp as the kite changed direction. She was very child-like in her reverie.
"What's its name?" she asked.
"I don't know, let me ask," I said.
I yelled to Linda. The kids were down at the water with Brian and Charlie, out of my view. I asked Linda to call to Carra for a name for her kite. Within seconds the reply came back on the wind in a sweet memorial.
"She named it, Tammy." Linda smiled.
I shall always cherish that day on the beach with that white-haired widow whom I fondly embrace as a mom and those two delightful faces I love as grandchildren. Moments on an endless beach held together by a few pieces of string, some gusts of wind, and the bond of love and hope.
There is always hope. I hoped the kite would fly, even when my eyes saw evidence it would not. Faith was my persistent belief the kite could fly. Peace and joy were my reward for believing.
Perhaps your life has been like Carra's kite, unable to rise above your present circumstances. Maybe you have experienced a nose dive or tail spin and you feel helplessly out of control. You might be absolutely convinced, based on what you can see, that your life is on a crash course. Still, there is hope.
The God who picked Carra's kite off of the beach and sent it soaring is the same God who created you and me. Invisible to the human eye, like the wind, God's power is available to you. He knows you better than you know yourself. Perhaps you've been struggling a long time to live your life without Him. In that case, without God, you are destined for a crash landing.
There is still hope, however. What you need is some wind in your sails. You need faith. Faith calls for belief and persistence. God is always waiting to hear from you..
God is only one prayer away.