A Life Well-Lived

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General Musings / Heart Aches

My friend is dying.

It started 18 months ago with headaches, and odd searching for words, moved to a diagnosis of glioblastoma, and has now shifted to hospice care.

She is 41. She has a husband, and two young children. Until her illness, she worked to connect farmers and hungry people.

We are not particularly close. I kept up with her life through social media; I don’t know if she followed mine. We met many years ago in seminary, where my first memory of her is the large jug of water she lugged around through orientation, followed closely by her huge, quick, and genuine smile.

If I had to choose one word to describe her, it would be “light.” Her golden hair, frequently being released and then re-wound into a loose bun. Her shining face, open to joy and vulnerable to hurt. Her laugh. Her deep, deep care for the lost and least. Her way with words and sense of the Spirit. Her ability to find satisfaction and happiness in the simple acts of life: baking bread, sitting in the sun, drinking a mug of tea, hugging a friend. Even facing death, she has been open and honest, embracing her own pain even as she wrote a book to share her experiences with others.

Across the country, and probably around the world, people are beginning to grieve and mourn, anticipating the loss of this beautiful soul. They are sharing words of praise and gratitude for having known her. Like me, many have been mostly out of touch, but cherish their memories of their interactions.

In the midst of my own grief, this turn of events has caused some introspection. I examine my own life, wondering at its impact. Am I paying close enough attention to what matters–my relationships, the songbirds, the sunrise? Am I welcoming joy, at the risk of feeling pain? Am I making a positive difference in the world? Am I listening, loving, and doing today, rather than wait for some “right” future time? Am I letting people know now how they’ve affected me now, instead of waiting until it’s too late?

Perhaps it seems cliché, a mid-life navel-gazing dose of perspective about how short life is. Yet I don’t want to live a life of habit or security or going through the motions. When my time on this plane has come to its inevitable conclusion, I want to know that mine was a life well-lived, and well-loved. I want to be remembered not for ambition or achievement or activity, but for real presence. For compassion as well as challenge. For exuberance as well as tranquility.

For the past few nights, those who love my friend have been pausing at the same time, sitting with intention. We will continue to do so, holding her spirit in the Light, accompanying her as far as we can on this journey.

And I, for one, am taking it one step further, living with intention, in honor of my friend.

My friend is dying. She has lived well, and she is dying well. So may we all.

New Year’s Fog

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'Tis the Season / General Musings / Holidays/Holy-days / Picture This

This new year dawned, for me, not bright and shiny, making me squint against the light and promise and hope

But foggy and grey. Shrouded.

Dim, to some. Bleary. Disheartened.

But as I paused in the descending dusk (not even supper time yet in these parts)

I felt it.

The promises that grow in darkness, wrapped up in damp

Waiting for the right time to emerge.

Winter is not a time of death. It has gotten a bad rap, a reputation soured by centuries of misunderstanding.

Winter is the gathering-in, the hunkering, the hidden preparations and knitting together of that which is to arrive later.

The whispering of what is to be, what is not yet ready.

It is a biding of time. A waiting.

So a fitting beginning to a new year, not a disappointment, no.

For though we cannot see the beyond through the clouds, they persist nonetheless.

A tire swing hangs from the bare branches of an old tree at the edge of a field of melting snow. A rock wall follows a line of trees. The back treeline is shrouded in fog.