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Julie VanSpall – Home Front

Savouring the pages in life’s story

Voices Aug 2, 2017

As with a good book, such as this family favourite by Stuart McLean, life's pages "are meant to be written upon, dog-eared, pondered, and enjoyed," writes Julie VanSpall.                             (Julie VanSpall / The B.C. Catholic)

I love discovering a book that I can’t put down. It’s hard to describe the pleasure of immersing oneself in a story so well written the characters feel like friends and the plot line, a personal journey. 

While finally reaching the end of page-turners is satisfying, it can also verge on a depressed feeling for me. Knowing how it ends, the sense of completion is rewarding and likewise filled with regret. The exciting moments of stealing away from reality to read the next chapter are over. There are no more adventures to be discovered, no mysteries left to solve, no tribulations to endure, no humour left to enjoy and – unless the novel has a sequel - it takes me a little time before I’m ready to move on to a new book.

For my grandmother’s 92nd birthday, I gave her a copy of one of the late Stuart McLean’s collection of short stories about the Vinyl Café. She enjoyed each story so much that she wanted to simply sit and read the book from start to finish. Then, she shared her realization she was really in no hurry. She decided she would limit herself to one story per day and savour it, anticipating the next day’s story, rather than pushing through.

In this season of my life, with less time to read for pleasure than I once did, my grandmother’s words come back to me quite often, and usually not in relation to books. At 92, Grandma had lived most of her life. Her pace had slowed and her mind had time to reflect on what’s important. That rear-view-mirror perspective allowed her to share the truth we all know, but often get too busy to adopt: life’s pages are not meant to be skimmed and quickly turned; they are meant to be written upon, dog-eared, pondered, and enjoyed – they are meant to be lived.

As I live my busy life, I hear Grandma’s words about enjoying each story in her book. I tend to push through from task to task, feeling satisfied when check marks appear on my to-do list. During the school year, I often go non-stop from morning until night. I enjoy being busy; yet, at times, I find myself craving an hour to do "just nothing."

When summer arrives, I make overly ambitious need-to-do and want-to-do lists. Unfortunately, time plays games with me. Knowing I have weeks to work with, I tend to waste time. In a busy day during the school year, I can accomplish far more than I do in a week without deadlines. Unscheduled time seems to tick away slowly and then, as if without warning, another day has turned to night and I feel overwhelmed by the reality of quickly passing time.

Removing a sense of urgency from my life is not natural for me and yet I recognize it is healthy. My body needs to rest and my soul needs to reflect, yet my moods can become depressed by a lack of routine. Unlike Grandma, I have not fully learned to simply enjoy life’s moments for what they are.

The contradictory nature of time reminds me I’m not meant to understand or control it. God brings me to moments of contemplation to remind me to let him in. It’s not always easy to read between the lines and discover truths about myself, or to ponder life’s difficult moments, but I need to recognize God as the author of my life, and follow where his words lead me.

A few months after finishing that beloved book, Grandma’s own story came to an end. Quotes and excerpts of her life are intricately woven into mine and, in times of reflection, revelations like the one I’ve just shared appear as vividly as if I’ve read them on printed pages.

God has given me a story of my own. I need to live it with the enthusiasm and gratitude of being immersed in a great novel; however, I cannot rush this book because it’s the only one I’ve got. I’m not ready to find out how the story ends, just yet. As much as possible, I must savour each page I turn.