Life, Death, and a Simple Question

Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude. Just yesterday millions of people across the USA came together to share a meal, a tradition, or some sport, all in the name of gratitude. I, myself, gathered with part of my family and created a new tradition as we ate a simple meal together at my father’s nursing home. In many ways, it was more the essence of Thanksgiving for me than it ever had been. It was family, coming together, sharing food, and sharing stories.

For others, this week also brought something new. In the past few days I have had very dear friends unexpectedly lose a parent, while another dear friend extended their family by one.

The timing is not lost on me. This week – a week of gratitude – the cycle of life hit me square in the face.

Even though I have been living with perpetual loss for over 11 years since my father’s massive stroke, I have not had to deal with the permanence of loss. I can still go and hug him, laugh with him, smile with him. My friends who just lost their parent no longer have that privilege – that joy.

So, as I sit tonight and reflect on the miracle of life and the meaning of death, I find my mind wandering to a quote I’ve always liked, but never fully embraced…. until now. Now, it seems to have a deeper meaning.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

It’s from the poem ‘The Summer Day’ by Mary Oliver. Whether or not you believe in reincarnation, it’s this life – now – that matters, because it’s the one you can embrace. In the wake of death and birth, it seems even more poignant as I remember that time can feel too short, while also being marvelously full of possibility and potential.

With gratitude for a simple family gathering fresh in my mind, it seems a good time to truly answer Mary’s question. And the best answer I can come up with is: Live.

Live in Love.
Live in Hope.
Live in Peace.
Live in Joy.
Live in Play.
Live in Curiosity.
Live in Intimacy.
Live in Laughter.
Live in Connection.
Live in Spirit.

Live.

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‘The Summer Day’ by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

4 thoughts on “Life, Death, and a Simple Question

  1. Phyllis Endriukaitis

    What timing! Just heard of a dear friend’s father-in-law who took his own life 4 months after his wife of 65 years passed away. I had no words for her or her husband who buried both his parents in less than 6 months. I love the simpleness of “Live”

    Thank you, always something relevant.

    Reply

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