Sunday, September 07, 2014

Reflections at 61 Years of Age – Part I: Gratitude

This past Monday I celebrated the completion of my 61st year of life. I spent the day doing mostly what I wanted – working in the yard with my husband who helped me erect the replacement arch over the front entrance to the jungle. After a badly needed cool shower, I crawled into our oh-so-comfortable bed for a little reading (currently it is a wonderful work by Franciscan Richard Rohr) until I nodded off for a nap with my dachshund, Oscar, under my arm. I awoke to birthday greetings by phone messages, email messages and a tidal wave of Facebook messages. I found myself weeping with gratitude as I read them all.

It was a wonderful day.

Gratitude Abounds

Mother, brother David and I, 1955, Sebring
Cousin John Coverston and I at Florida Youth
Conservation Camp, Ocala National Forest, 1961

 When I look at my 61 years of life and where I am today, I find that I am more than satisfied with almost every aspect of it. I resist the tendency to engage in what I see as smarmy evangelical speak and say “I am blessed,” which suggests that somehow I’m special to G-d and those who are struggling somehow aren’t. In truth, Calvinist election theology has never made much sense to me at all. Even so, there are many aspects of my life that I do experience as blessings, many of them unexpected and unearned, and for which I am thankful to a gracious G-d who makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. 

Sister Carole Savage, Husband, Andy Mobley
New Coverleigh, rebuilt from rubble of Hurricane Charley
I am grateful for a wonderful husband of now four years and my life partner of 40 years. I am grateful for our beautiful home that we rebuilt from the rubble left by Hurricane Charley 10 years ago and the lush jungle garden surrounding it to putter in. I am grateful for a houseful of healthy animal companions who remind us of what it means to be fully human. And I look around to see the many the cherished artifacts I’ve collected from travels around the world and an entire room full of books on subjects ranging from law to religion to education, the disciplines to which I have devoted my life.

Uncle Harry with the world's best niece, Grace Coverston

Birthday celebration, Cheesecake Factory, Aug. 30, 2014

I am ever so grateful to have a loving immediate family within an hour and a half drive who came together last Saturday for a wonderful birthday dinner at the Cheesecake Factory here in Winter Park. I am also thankful for my extended family, my cousins and the two remaining siblings of my parents, both now nonagenarians, all of whom I don’t get to see as often as I wished.

I am thankful for my warm parish family at St. Richards Episcopal where I received my birthday blessings on Sunday and whose bulletin congratulated Andy and I on our fourth wedding anniversary. And I am particularly grateful for the many bright, creative and loving friends who enrich my life and have continued to love me and encourage me even in my darkest moments. I have always prided myself on having the best friends in the world and I feel very lucky to call each one friend.

Magdalena and my Nanny Henrietta icon

Among the presents I received on my birthday were some very kind words from former and current students. At a time in my life where I doubt my value to the institution where I work and experience my ongoing presence there as very tenuous, I cannot tell you how much I appreciated those posts and emails. They were the presents I cherished the most.

Daisy Beagle and Oscar Dachshund

I am grateful for decent health at this point in my life journey. The frenetic pace I’ve maintained most of my life has slowed a bit due to a torn meniscus in my left knee that can be quite painful at times and about 20 more pounds than I need to be carrying. My hypertension is kept under control by a low level ACE inhibitor medication but the diuretic means I spend more time at the urinal these days than I’d like. But, considering the alternatives, I think I’m pretty much OK. And I’m grateful for that.

Rarely a Dull Moment

South Sumter High School, Class of 1971

In all honesty, I have achieved much of what I want to achieve in life – three graduate degrees, a vast range of experiences from life on Capitol Hill to life in a village in the developing world with no running water or electricity, and a number of awards, certifications and recognitions along the way. My life has been eventful, momentous, sometimes tumultuous but inevitably interesting. There has rarely been a dull moment or many chances to even catch my breath. While my bank accounts and material assets would not suggest I am particularly wealthy in terms that are valued in this largely materialist culture, my life has been very rich indeed.

Sophomore, Lake-Sumter Community College 1973

I recognize that I have been the beneficiary of a great deal of good fortune in life, most of which I had little to do with. This began by being the winner of the genetic lottery at birth, born to intelligent, educated and loving parents in a professional middle class home. But I have also worked hard all of my life to realize my potential and to call others to do the same.

With Dr. Leo Sandon, major professor at Ph.D.
graduation, Florida State University 2000

I had always believed that at this point my life would be largely settled, that I would be where I needed to be, offering my final contributions to making the world a slightly better place than the one I inherited in 1953. Until recently, I had labored under the romantic belief that I would never retire, that I’d keel over in a classroom at some point and as the paramedics carried me out of the classroom I’d challenge my students that one final time, “So, what (gurgle) does *this* tell us (wheeze) about what it means to be human (faint)?” Anyone who has ever been in any of my classes or public scholarship presentations is no doubt smiling – or wincing - at this point in the reading.

Alas, I no longer think that will be the finale of my life story. Indeed, if anything, it seems to be a prime example of the rabbinical proverb “If you want to make G-d laugh, tell G_d your plans.”

The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., M.Div., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Lecturer: Religion and Cultural Studies
University of Central Florida, Osceola Campus, Kissimmee

 If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.

Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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