So this happened…
It’s not supposed to look like that. That’s not how it looks when it’s fulfilling its intended purpose. That’s not how it looks when it is tested on a regular basis, cleaned, and annually refilled with a new 9-volt battery. That is, however, how it looks when a person comes home from a long trip, is tired, hears the tell-tale beeping of a smoke detector out of battery juice, and attempts to change said battery. When changing the battery does not work and the piercing and intermittent beeping continues, then the otherwise non-dramatic and mature *snort* battery changer homeowner removes the entire detector off the ceiling with no small amount of satisfaction.
There was a broken or missing plug of some kind on the wing of the airplane that was to take me home from Arizona on time on Monday morning. I was at the airport and through security with an hour to spare, a bit of a rarity for me, and the glowing schedule of departures showed my flight on time on every single bank of boards I passed with my rolling carry-on and a backpack, not too large and with no dangerous liquids, unknown substances given to me by any strangers, nor electronic cigarettes or lithium batteries. My carry-on had my robe, a couple of stoles, a bible, and my favorite running shoes which I do not trust in my checked bag. Why no, I’m not allowed to be back running yet post-surgery, but I simply feel better having my favorite running shoes with me in case I experience a miracle healing moment of recovery and know that, despite instructions, I can probably run without damaging anything that is left after a surgery that happened a lifetime ago, or 5 and ½ weeks, as the case may be.
I was ready to board the plane that was on-time for departure. Then the nice lady came on the speaker and said the tower had called and our boarding time was to be delayed, but not much. Hmmm, not much – 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes? Yes, was her answer when asked by another passenger near me. “Not much” ended up being 45 minutes after which we boarded and the captain told us about the errant, broken, missing, can’t fly without it plane-wing plug. But it was restored and all was hunky dory to Kansas City. But oops – Kansas City was having “pop-up” thunderstorms in the area. They should be blowing through pretty quickly and we would land as expeditiously as possible. Hmmm, pretty quickly – 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes? Yes, was the flight attendant’s answer when asked by another passenger near me. So there were banking right turns and banking left turns and a seeming slamming on the airplane brakes and “pretty quickly” ended up being a 30 minute delay in landing in the Kansas City area.
Arizona had been hard and wonderful and intense and sad and filled with amazing moments of courage from family members and friends and strangers, and disparate churches who served well, albeit with some awkward moments, and exhaustion and anger and resignation and great beauty and deep heartache and it was time to come home. It was simply time to come home. There were cats and a lunk of a dog named Buddy and a wall with a hole from a piano that spilled one time and a pantry without corn starch or a melon baller and leftover instructions about when a person can run, mow, and lift over ten pounds without bursting into flame.
And the smoke detector would NOT STOP THAT INFERNAL AND INTERMINABLE AND UNPREDICTABLE AND DRIVING ANY SANE PERSON OVER THE EDGE, BEEPING! Honestly? My first thought was my sledgehammer. Yes, I do have sledgehammer because sometimes a sledgehammer and duct tape are the only things that can resolve an issue. When a new battery would not stop the beeping, the sledgehammer came to mind again. Because the plug in the airplane wing broke, because there were pop-up thunderstorms, because they were supposed to be on time, because “not much” and “pretty quickly” are not concrete answers in a world already filled with too much ambiguity.
But I had second thoughts about the sledgehammer so I maturely decided to take the detector off the ceiling, disengage the electronics, and resolve the issue. I’m not likely to have a fire in a basement guest bedroom in the middle of the summer. But even when it was off the ceiling it wouldn’t stop beeping. And I thought of the sledgehammer a third time. Because there’s a church that doesn’t believe women should be ordained and preach and teach, because there was a blood clot without any warning and a massive stroke and a cessation of brain activity and a transition from this world to the next without any warning and it’s just not fair, it’s just not right, and I can’t finally make it better for everyone. Because death and love and life and grief are just bleeping – and/or beeping *snort* – hard.
It still looks like that – my smoke detector and my ceiling – they still look like that two days later. But I’m calmer, and I’m back to work full-time. I’m calmer, but I’m not done. I’m not done wondering and reflecting and writing and running (well jogging to start) and hugging Buddy and pretending the cats care and sighing and reading scripture and pondering the meaning of life and paying bills and thinking about how to fix a bleeping, er, beeping smoke detector and missing and worrying a little about my Aunt and Uncle and cousin, and not quite ready to say good-bye to another cousin already in God’s good heaven. I’m calmer but I don’t have all the answers, as if having all the answers would make things better, and you and I both know better than that.
So we keep living. We keep learning. We keep giving and forgiving. We keep grieving and we keep healing. We keep looking up and looking out when mostly we want to look away and look within. And we keep walking with Jesus. We just keep walking with Jesus and loving our neighbors. And we just keep showing up – good times, bad times, all times – we just keep showing up for each other. And we just keep showing up for ourselves, to live our lives as best we can. And when the bleeping, er, beeping smoke detector won’t shut off, sometimes we take it off the ceiling and leave it for a time. Not forever, but just for a pause, because sometimes we just can’t. Later yes, but for a brief period, maybe it’s okay to say we just can’t.