An inflatable row boat saw me through middle school. I lived on that thing in the middle of the faux pond in the new sub development where we lived.
I would drag my boat to the pond as well as an anchor, sail, radio, snacks, books and fishing pole. And that’s how I stayed relatively sane. Nobody could call me a dork or nerd because all the popular kids lived in town and those who didn’t live in town couldn’t see me hunkered with my book deep in my imaginary ocean. I loved that boat and I’m so thankful that Elijah got one for his thirteenth birthday.
That’s why I carried it out camping with us this past week. I’m guessing I carried over 100 pounds at least 10 miles by the end of our week camping, but it was worth it.
We all took turns on the row boat in the cove by the cabin and I got to experience one of those brief and eternal moments of pure joy. The sun was shining, the water was calm, and I was tired of rowing so I lay in the boat face first looking down into the water. It was just the kids and I and they were running around the cliffs giggling and daring each other to explore a little further. I was basking in the sun watching the jellyfish, sea anemones and sea stars dot the water below me. And it all was perfect for that moment. All was right with the world and I was filled with beauty and joy until it was overflowing.
So I started to cry. Naturally. Because such moments are precious and fragile; one cannot hold onto them and everything changes.
And that’s okay.
The kids started yelling for me to row over and catch them in the boat as they jumped off the rocks. That’s a bad idea so instead they dove off and climbed out of the freezing water into the boat and I taxied them back to shore. They all pushed and encouraged each other to make the dive and I helped get them back safely. That’s what family does on our best days.
I also started to cry this last Sunday during communion; I’m noticing a pattern. Presiding over communion is often emotional for me. I know about the struggles and brokenness people face and I place a moment of perfect love in their hands hoping it will bring some wholeness and connection. It means I absorb the fragility and changing nature of life as I place the body broken and made whole for us into outstretched hands.
It’s kind of intense every Sunday, but when we’re saying goodbye to a slew of young adults scattering to the winds, it gets cranked up a notch. I made it through three of them, but buckled with the fourth. The tears just started flowing; one cannot hold onto them and everything changes.
Luckily, I serve a congregation where I could wipe my eyes on the sleeve of someone’s shirt as they came through the communion line when tissues were not accessible. I did not blow my nose; even I know that crosses a line.
I wish I had brilliant advice and spiritual tools to survive the chances and changes of life, but right now I’m leaning heavily on time spent in an inflatable boat.
• Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. “Living Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.