Sunday Feb. 10, 2013 started out as one of those days. Carolyn and I had been quarreling/fighting for a couple of days and our differences had crept into this particular Sunday. Of course, the Chancel Choir was to sing and I had to act and look like I was a nice guy, warm and friendly, sincerely interested in what people were saying, that everything was normal, but inside I was numb, and really didn’t even feel like being in church at all. If the choir wasn’t singing I probably would have stayed home and stewed in my unhappiness. I went through the motions. The choir sang, pretty well; though I was cocooned in my personal world of sadness and self-pity. My thoughts didn’t turn to forgiveness or love. I had missed it.
Sometimes I forget why we Lutherans do things the way we do such as having a prelude to prepare us for the service, though we invariably gab through it without listening. Why do we maintain other vestiges of our liturgy, including the Kyrie, Gloria, Agnus Dei? Why do we still hold on to these “archaic” aspects of our church’s past? I think Luther knew we were lousy at being pious, and used them to help us focus our thoughts on God. We often try to get through them as fast as we can, even renaming them so we don’t turn off young people to sound modern. We miss the whole point of this conduit to God. That Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, was a “Throw Away Sunday” for me.
Later that afternoon, after Carolyn and I managed to get through church without anyone knowing we didn’t like each other very much, we were watching PBS, when at about 3:15 our neighbor knocked on our back door saying, “Larry did you know that Jackie (one of our horses) was lying in the corral and can’t get up”? He and his wife had seen Jackie thrashing on the ground as they drove by. Jackie was my first horse. She was now 30. She had been dropping a lot of weight recently and had developed diarrhea. She wasn’t looking very good. I had taken her to the vet two weeks earlier to have a checkup. Today was cold and near zero so I bundled up as I went out to check on her. There she was lying on her side thrashing her legs tragically like she was making a horse shaped snow angel on the frozen ground. Mitch and I tried to help her get to her feet, but we couldn’t budge her. She tried hard to swing her head up so she could get her front legs under her, but she couldn’t make it. I knew this was “it”. She was exhausted, her breathing was labored and she grunted at every breath. Carolyn had come out and I asked her to call the Vet. I was tense from anguish and cold. My knees ached from kneeling by her head acting as a wind break. I put one of her old horse blankets under her head to at least provide a little comfort. I talked to her of the good times we’d shared, with tears and a shaky voice, recalled when we used to ride bareback across the fields near our house or trailing cows with the Engens in the mountains. Now it was almost over. Why hadn’t I spent more time with her? Why hadn’t I groomed her more? Could I have taken her for more walks? After an eternity the Vet arrived and decided, as I knew, that even if we could get her back to her feet this time, the next time she laid down to sleep would be the same story. The Vet gave her a massive dose of sedative, her breathing slowed, and then she was gone. Free from pain, cold and suffering. Our time was done. I had missed it again because I hadn’t taken the time to be with her more, to consider her needs above my own. I had thrown many of her days away because of my own personal focus during those precious times. I had lost a loved one and had cheated our relationship.
We often throw Sundays and other days away. We forget the value of faith and the preciousness of togetherness. Let us not throw away any day without taking the time to remember our love for God, Christ, our precious families, friends and those who need our time, even our animal friends. Let us make the most of every church service; truly investing ourselves in Liturgy, Worship and Sacrament. Burden us with humility, but fill our hearts with the joy of being truly present, every day. Let us not throw any of our days away!
Larry W Hazlett, B.M, M.A. Music History, is the Dist. Prof. Emeritus of Theatre & Dance (retired) at the University of Wyoming. He lives in Laramie, Wyoming with his lovely wife Carolyn and serves as Choir Director at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran.