How to Make a Life



Her absence rings most empty at the breakfast table.

Every morning, my dad starts the coffee maker, drops his raisin bread in the toaster and slowly opens the Newblinds covering the window over the sink. Squinting through the glass, he takes note of the temperature outside, the amount of bird seed left in each feeder, the slant of sun on the deck.

At various points along his morning choreography, when an observation worth sharing arises, he feels it—the slight hesitation of breath, the parting of lips, the turn of his head to catch her eye. And then, in a suspended moment of remembrance, his heart and mind swirl confusedly, and then settle.

She’s not there.

It’s difficult to abandon sixty years of morning rhythms that are redolent with unforced grace.
When one half of a whole goes missing, every day becomes a step towards restoration. And when wrestling through such holy work, it’s difficult to emerge without a limp.


She was ready with love bursting the day she met that handsome young man in uniform who spoke like a farmer. She walked with an elegance that defied her age. And her words? They dripped honey sweet from her mouth. I am sure, at the end of the day, her voice is what drew him in.

The two of them, they ran away into the night, hands held tight, wishes trailing from their tailpipe, desire flooding like pools of joy. And on the other side of that day, they were One.

Soon, they were three and four and five and six. A little later, a surprise seventh member would fill out the tree. The years, they would stack like so many dishes and several moves would have them settling in different houses, different states, even.

My mom, she would leave behind her beloved South-land and, together, they would walk bravely into new cities whose edges turned sharper and whose winter’s blew colder.

And that is how these two chose to walk into each new day.

Many times, the painful steps that took them away from places good proved to be purposed paths to places rich and replete.


This story? The one that spins me and my siblings into existence and then seamlessly threads us through the wrinkled and worn, yet glorious fabric of our clan? It is the one that we never tire of hearing.

With each telling, with each new detail added or embellished upon, all of our threads pull in a little tighter.

For this is a story of devotion. My parents’ daily decision to walk forward into love set a whole host of wheels spinning. Children and grandchildren and great grandchildren are only the beginning of an ever expanding ripple.

And isn’t this how one consecrates a life? Isn’t it by setting love afire among the everyday, ordinary acts of seeing and touching and being that everything becomes hallowed?

The way my parents gave themselves over to each other, again and again—with each shaky decision, with each new babe in arms, with each joy and heartbreak—became acts of simple yet glorious worship.

This is how a story of devotion becomes indelibly inked across generations.

This is how to make a life.


The catch in my dad’s steps is more pronounced these days—evidence of all that giving over of oneself to another. Evidence of a life of consecration. It makes sense that years of knitting and twisting and weaving would leave an imprint and that walking forward into new forms would require new ways of being.

However, my dad’s life of devotion continues, despite how everything has changed. Because, yes, devotion is active and looks like love with skin on but it is also found in the remembering, in the holding dear.

Although his habit of turning towards his love in order to share a thought or a laugh or a smile is one that he will have to unlearn over time, the desire to do so is still an act of worship.

Love, when kindled and nurtured and cherished, never returns empty. Love only makes that which we hold dear more beautiful.


Image credit: Lisa Risager