joankingIt’s 4 a.m. and for the fourth night sleep eludes me. Five decades of the rosary and praying for everyone on my list still finds me sleepless. As I lay in bed thinking of necessary duties in the day ahead, I realize “deadlines direct our destiny.”

The thesaurus defines “deadline” in a positive sense of “goal, target, and aim” but also in a negative way of “time limit, cut-off date, closing.” Reflecting on this, I realize that, while there are new beginnings in our lives every day, there are also many endings.

A train whistle sounds in the distance to remind me it’s rushing to deliver products or people on a timeline. For some of those people, their journey may be reaching a goal, but for others it may be a closing.

The coming week will be filled with many “must do’s” on a time limit, because we’re finally moving – from a four-bedroom home of 46 years to basically a four-room apartment. No more barn storage and garage area but a one-car garage. There will be one level with no basement. The three acres of woods and yard downsizes to a well-kept spot of lawn and landscaped plantings, and the big deck that overlooked a nearby lake will now be a patio that faces trees hiding another apartment building.

There is a rush to empty the buildings before a closing date. Several rummage sales have only made a dent in the pile of stuff to clear out. Pictures of “The Hoarders” TV program seem all too real. There was always room to store our kids’ stuff, the neighbors’ extra items and our excess. The space was there so it wasn’t necessary to clear things out – until now.

Our children remind us that time is short and we can’t sort through everything. If we haven’t used it in a couple of years, we probably won’t need it. They take things home with them and assure us that we can have them back if necessary or borrow them when needed. There just won’t be room to keep all the memorabilia and finds from all those years of collecting. We agree. There’s too much stuff.

We wonder how we will get through these days of decisions. Then, a neighbor stops by with assuring words that it will all work out – just stay calm and keep moving forward.

The computer is at our former address as the deadline for this column looms only 48 hours away, shortly before our house closing meeting.

Where is paper to put down my ‘inspirations’?  The back of a photocopied floor plan of our new apartment has to make do as this early hour is not the time to go rummaging through the many boxes we still have to unpack. If needed, there’s a cardboard box cover on which to continue my thoughts.

It does get easier as the process continues but there are difficult moments – the dried rose in a small vase brings memories of a deceased brother or the rummage sale find for someone assures us the large chest made by my father will have a good home elsewhere.

At the end of each day, as we survey the increasingly empty spaces, we know we indeed are moving forward.

There are times in the evening for reflection. There are hundreds of people moving to new surroundings every day, all with their own stories to tell – all meeting deadlines of work and family in the process. Even if it seems otherwise, we’ll survive this great upheaval.

A few days after our major move of large items, we can see the progress we’ve made but still have several days “grace” to move smaller, miscellaneous boxes.

By the time you read this, we’ll have closed our former home and moved on to rediscovering our treasures in the boxes and bins at our new location.  

Do we have a deadline for unpacking all those containers? I’ll just be happy if we can find a way to fit our car into the garage before the first big snowstorm.

Deadlines have become a routine part of all our daily lives. Missing a deadline causes all sorts of problems.

Deadlines move us through our lives from birth to death. As we reflect spiritually, we can see the highs and lows of major changes in our lives. It’s how we get through these deadlines that makes the difference.  

On Nov. 1, we rejoice with those from many centuries who have met their final deadline and are officially and unofficially declared saints. They have reached the goal that we all hope for – to be one day face to face with God. No more deadlines.

On Nov. 2, when we pray especially that our loved ones and all who have died may rest in peace, we are reminded of our belief in purgatory. It’s God’s grace period for all who are still imperfect or have died before they could meet that final deadline. It may not be perfect theology but it works for me.

It is a small world! In a recent conversation with a Marquette journalism classmate, I mentioned I had recently written the “100th Austrian reunion” story in the Sept. 23 Catholic Herald.

My friend asked the name of the family and when I said, “Wegerbauer,” she exclaimed, “I know a Max Wegerbauer. His wife and I belong to several organizations and she told me about spending 10 days at a family reunion in Milwaukee.”

After commenting on the coincidence, she also asked, “Did he have his accordion and wear his lederhosen? He is the only man I’ve danced with since my husband’s disabling stroke 15 years ago. They’re a great couple.”

She told me she and the Wegerbauers had read the story on the Catholic Herald Web site – another example of how people can keep in touch while miles apart.