“Now class, pay attention!” Sister Mary Margaret began authoritatively with Monday’s dissertation on spiritual life. “You must be present to witness God’s wonder and awe.”
In 1964, nuns at St. Charles Grammar School in San Carlos had a way of beating a subject (religious or otherwise) into the concrete floors of our upper-level classroom. With a 4-foot pointer in hand, our teacher walloped her elongated weapon for decorum across her palm as she praised God’s mystical glory.
“How can you be present for something you can’t see?” I wondered.
Assuming the position – elbows firmly planted on the edge of my desk and my 14-year-old face cupped in my hands – I pretended to be engaged as my mind flittered to the fantasy world of young love and the prepubescent hunk of burning love sitting dangerously close just to my left. Now that I could be in attendance for!
During my 16 years of parochial education, that phrase was repeated over and over, but I never took the time to understand its meaning. After all, life was busy. Working a part-time job while going to school and investigating intricate ways to maneuver around the opposite sex left little time for introspection, let alone reflection.
Then my children’s father entered my life. As we began creating a world that looked ever so promising, I was confident I had finally grasped the significance of those words. What could be more awesome than being in love and the excitement that goes with it?
But in 1981, I experienced an epiphany. The true meaning of wonder and awe was revealed with the birth of my first child, Michelle.
Peering down at this perfect little creature with sapphire-blue eyes and tuffs of finely spun white cotton-candy hair, my heart stopped beating. The miracle of birth took my breath away. From the moment she was placed on my chest, I knew I was forever changed. Wanting to relive that experience, I gave birth three more times.
But when my father passed away last October, part of his legacy was the realization that I could have such experiences every day, not just on special occasions.
Jack Madden was a man of few words. In fact, he rarely had much to say because he preferred to be an observer rather than a talker.
Watching him smile joyfully at the sound of a baby’s giggle or smell a freshly budding rose from my garden silently told me, “Live your life awake.”
For Dad, it was the little things that gave him pause to reflect, revere and honor. Big things were easy to detect. They exploded like a brilliant display of fireworks on the Fourth of July. True magical wonders required a moment of silence to unearth.
Since the privilege of witnessing the surrender of his soul back to his creator, I’ve made it my mission to carry on where he left off. I’m now a voyeur. Oh, not the kind that peeks in windows. That would be creepy. No, I peer into the minutiae of my day.
When a timeout is allowed, I soak in my surroundings. I permit the enchanting sensation of wind dancing with my hair or the smell of fresh-cut grass to saturate my five senses. I don’t overanalyze the experience with words. I just allow myself to be present.
So, if you see me on the street and I look as though I’m not breathing, don’t worry. There’s no need for CPR. I’m just being a spectator in a marvelous mind-blowing moment. They are everywhere I look.