Labor Day Meditations on the Hard Work of Living

Photo by Luan Rezende on


Mary and I had been discussing a Labor Day post. She was thinking about transitions. I was thinking about how, as a career educator and perpetual student, that this, the beginning of the academic calendar, is my New Year’s Eve. I’m not really going to write about either of those things, now, though, because my dear friend Bob is in the hospital, and I find I am compelled to write about the hard work of living.

Bob and I have been friends for over thirty years. In this age of disposable relationships, that is remarkable enough. When you realize that Bob was born with large VSD back before today’s effective treatments were developed, and wasn’t expected to live past infancy, you recognize that being Bob’s friend at all is a miracle.

Bob is a testament to the power of a positive outlook and unshakeable faith. His brightly colored wardrobe, that cackle of a laugh, and his obvious delight in everyday living makes him memorable.  Meet him once and you will never forget him.  It is impossible to stay down when you are spending time with Bob. (Although you may be embarrassed to eat out with him, because his enjoyment of a meal borders on the obscene.)

My children love Bob like an eccentric uncle. So, it did not surprise me at all when my youngest son made sure he was invited for the tie dye party he was having with some of his friends this Saturday. As an aging hippie, making tie dyes is one of Bob’s favorite things to do. It was a fun, messy time, followed by homemade pizza. It was a great way to spend Saturday night. Until it wasn’t.

Very calmly, Bob asked me to call for an ambulance. I was frightened by the sudden decline in my friend—even more so when an EMT announced that his blood oxygen level had dropped to 64. For those of you who don’t know, as I did not until Saturday night, humans typically have 90-100% oxygen saturation of their blood. When it drops below 90% it is considered low, requiring some attention. At 64%, people are typically unconscious—or already dead. Bob, well, he was still walking—albeit slowly—and talking–mostly coherently–to the EMTs. He’s confounding, my dear friend, but he was dangerously ill. So off we go, first to the local community hospital, where he continued to confound medical professionals, and then into another ambulance to send him to his team of specialists at a World Renowned Hospital in Boston.

While I’ve been fretting and praying for my friend, I had the realization of how much hard work it takes Bob to keep going each day. To a great degree, I have been fooled by Bob’s amazing outlook and joie de vivre. I mean, I have always known that he is greatly challenged by his heart defect (and the complications that have arisen after over fifty five years of treating it). I just never realized how much of a challenge it really was for him to get through his days. Yes, even though we’ve talked about it, often. Dang, but his life is really, really hard work.

He’s told me many times,  though, that it’s not so bad, because he just enjoys his life so much. He does, too. I mean, sure, he complains about housework, and paying bills, and all the same things that we all complain about. At the same time, he understands how precious it is to even be around to be able to complain about these things. This guy knows how to appreciate his life. Every meal is delightful. Every band is great. Every truck or motorcycle he sees is awesome. Every person he meets tickles him. He doesn’t find living to be hard work, because he loves it so much.

This Labor Day weekend, as I reflect on work and play, productivity and rest, I find that I keep coming back to Bob and the lesson he teaches me over and over again. Perhaps this time I will finally master it:

Living is hard work, but it is all joy when you love it.

Whatever you labor at, I pray that you come to appreciate it, find the joy in it, and ultimately learn to love it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: