Monday, October 24, 2011

Sadness and Light

It's been a very strange 24 hours.  A friend and mentor of mine has been very sick with advanced pancreatic cancer.  The disease had metastasized throughout her body and everyone knew it was simply a matter of time before - well, before time ran out.  Over the last four months, she had struggled as one function after another shut down in response to the disease.  Her time ended on Saturday.  I am told that the end was peaceful; she was not alone nor was she in pain.  I am grateful to the wonderful folks at Hospice as well as her other caregivers who helped to ease her journey.

The funeral was today - a bit quick, I know, but those are the decisions that were made.  I cried for my friend, whose life was cut short by a cruel disease that didn't care in the least that her plans didn't include debilitating illness.  I cried for her family, who really won't quite know what to do without her.  I cried for her friends and yes, I cried for me.

I believe that our lives are lessons; that we all have things to both learn and teach.  My friend's life contained many lessons for me and one of the big ones that I want to share with you is this one - it's later than you think, so don't waste time.  It'd be a shame to get to the end of your life and not be able to think of the moments in which you were truly happy in your own skin.  For my friend, I think some of those moments involved helping other people - she was heavily involved in her community and I think she derived great satisfaction from that work.  I also hope she had a stash of personal "hey wow!" moments.  I know that a few years back, she took a trip to India - I hope she rode an elephant.  That'd be a "hey, wow!" moment.  Only a few weeks before she died, my friend insisted on taking a cruise to the Bahamas and good on her, I say.  I hope that trip had some "hey, wow!" moments, too.

I have a few "hey wow!" moments that I can recall easily.  Some are profound and some are just silly.  The pure blue of cobalt glass with sunlight behind it, for instance - that's one of mine.  The feeling of connectedness I noticed this past weekend at the last farmers' market of the year - that's another.

The point is, no matter what form they take, you have to be on the lookout for those moments.  There are several religious traditions that believe that when you arrive at the afterlife, you'll be called to account for your life.  Not just the times you were selfish or mean or didn't quite live up to your potential, but also to give an accounting of all the times you could have been joyous in your life and failed to do so.  The first time I heard that, it actually pulled me up short.  What?  There's actually a responsibility to be happy?  Whoa.

It's no good to simply spin and spin and spin and not know why you're working so hard to spin so fast.  The end comes for all of us and all too often, it comes too soon.

Requiescat in pace, my friend.

Note:  Image at top of post courtesy of:


Nikki Stafford said...

Beautifully, beautifully said. I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. What a lovely eulogy you've left for her. And all of us, really.

Candace said...

I am so sorry you lost a friend, but what a gift of reflection she gave you, and you in turn have given us. Interestingly, or maybe not so, I recently had that "aha moment" that you described, upon realizing I had a responsibility to be happy... to work at it, to find something to appreciate- everyday! To try to always put a genuine smile on my face...I don't always succeed but I'm hoping I get points for making the sincere effort. Anyway, thanks for your beautiful piece of reflection...