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Releasing the Song

May 1, 2021

Releasing the Song
By Rev. Walt Windley, IV, Chaplain Preceptor Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region

An aged farmer wakes with the rising of the sun, grabbing his familiar straw hat and setting out to the fields that have long been his home. He pauses when the slightest of tweeting noises captures his attention, suggesting an injured or wounded bird somewhere in his presence. Jumping from his tractor, he carefully guards his steps, looking with intense gaze to find the fragile creature as he follows the broken song. Upon spotting the bird nestled in the dirt, he bends with gentle knee, lifting the beautiful fowl colored with rustic oranges and earthy tones into caring fingers desiring to love a broken wing. His heart wonders about her fractured journey, the path leading to this place. And with fierce determination and steady mind, he promises to mend what has been left behind. In the fortitude to heal, he recognizes an important truth, to hold too tightly will crush the one meant to fly and sing and go. In the end, the goal will be release, not holding on.
You cough through the layers of dust, settling into the attic in the first round of spring cleaning. It is time to part with some well-worn items in boxes that have not moved or been opened since you first moved. Some of these things are earthly treasures from years ago while others are bored purchases from sleepless nights in front of the television. There are the kindergarten drawings from your kids who now have children of their own, the souvenir from that trip out West that you just couldn’t live without, the chipped gravy bowl from your fine china wedding collection gifted by Uncle Jack and Aunt Thelma, and the tattered coat that still smells like dad though he has been gone for more years than you can count. These aren’t just ordinary items; they are stories that have breath and meaning and have carved out a space within your heart. But the tighter you hold them in the boxes tucked away, the quicker you forget the joy they once brought and the stories that are begging to be told. Perhaps in gifting to others through release, they find new life on another’s dining room table or get snuggly wrapped around one on a cold winter night, breaking into a new song of rebirth and being found.
She has grown up before your very eyes-two years soon becoming eighteen and leaving for college with great visions of dreams to live and an energy unmatched in these weary bones. She is light and life, bringing a laughter and sense of compassion that will do great things and inspire. You long to keep her here, to look upstairs at the burning midnight light and know that she is safe and under your roof. The pitter patter of her feet have always settled your restless heart. But your role of parent was always leading you to release. You trust and pray and hope that your words settled in that mind of hers and look forward to the footsteps she will carve - the adventure of chasing and forming what is hers. To hold too tightly would mean the world would never know. And your once little girl would miss the beauty of singing on her own.
His eyes are tired as breath seeps from what was once sturdy. As his fingers curl around yours, his head barely lifts to look you in the eye. But that look speaks of a life well lived-a legacy of seeing and believing in people when they could not see a worth in themselves. Though words now fail, it is the simple presence of being that means the most. The pictures hanging above the bed remind you of family picnics in the park, that time he convinced his bride to hop on a train to see the Atlantic Ocean and the grandchildren that now carry his familiar smirk. They are gifts of the most important kind; gifts unmatched by dollar signs that are an extension of relationship and heart. And now he asks for the one gift you can give in return. To release, to let go, to give permission for him to be as he sings his final song.
We don’t like letting go. But I dare suggest that the beauty in our own journey has come from others letting go to release life into ours. What within me needs to be let go? What is begging for a song that only you can free?

Rev. Walt Windley, IV, Chaplain Preceptor Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region
William Sweezy
(704) 965-2868