Hey friends, it has been a little bit quiet around her recently. I've been having a very up and down week. Happiness because my sister is visiting with her dog and I love them both dearly. I have been very lonely since my best friend moved away and it has been so comforting to have my middle sister here for awhile. The hard parts: a dear family friend of ours passed away this morning. She has been fighting colon cancer for a few years and it is SUCH a blessing that she lived as long as she did after her diagnosis. I am so thankful she was able to fight it long enough to see her son graduate high school. And I'm thankful that she was able to pass peacefully with her closest family and friends gathered around her. She was a beautiful spirit, a distant cousin of my momma, a strong woman with deep faith, a peaceful and calming spirit, and a beautiful leader in her family. Beyond her passing, the other little hardships of life don't seem as important. But the other things still are a bit hard. Being 25 and working for myself can be real rough when business deals fall through while bills keep chugging along. I've discovered that the parking ticket patrol really loooooves giving tickets in the summer, especially in those few minutes once your parking payment has expired and you are running to your car to buy another one. 3 expensive and pointless parking tickets in a month is really not helping me out. I was really really hoping to take a metalsmithing class that starts in 2 weeks but I can't afford it now unless I dip into my little savings. If I just take one more metalsmithing class, I can pay to have access to all of the metalsmithing tools at Pratt. All of the dreams of expanding my business and doing better sort of weigh on taking that metalsmithing class. Blargh.
Oh, it's just one of those weeks, one where the everyday little hardships come to visit along with the more grand heart quivering experiences. I'm a tough cookie and it will all be fine I am sure. I just have to keep moving along and the world will turn along with me. Whether what I want to happen will or will not happen, it does not matter. Things always keep going, and where there are hard times, good times will follow.
It is fascinating to me that I probably have a better understanding of how to deal with death rather than the simple annoying little moments of life, like dealing with a bunch of silly parking tickets. I have said goodbye to many many people in my little lifetime as they pass on to a different life than this. For many months when I was 22, my blog was consumed with mourning of the loss of one of my best friends in college. For some reason, my friend Patrick's sudden passing brought up every experience with death I had ever had and I was consumed with heartache and existential questions.
Parking tickets and little things like that which suck my money and prevent me from achieving the goals I want to achieve, when I want to, are simply annoying. But saying goodbye to a dear family friend who is slowly dying from cancer is just such a profound experience, as is every experience with the loss of life. The experience that comes along with dealing with death has so much more room for beauty and a search for a more profound meaning of life and the lives of those around you. It is so much harder and more powerful than dealing with a parking ticket, but so much more beauty and reason for living can come out of it too. It isn't an empty frustration. It is deeply moving.
Most of the people close to me who have passed away had died in freak accidents or suddenly of old age. Preparing for death in those ways is so much more different than knowing you have to say goodbye to a friend dying of cancer. Dealing with any death is heartbreaking. But it is different every time, not only because every death is different in it's method, but every single person is unique and truly valuable, profoundly moving in their own way. With Mrs. L, the diagnosis was sudden and she was told she only had weeks to live. Those around her had to suddenly prepare themselves for this experience of saying goodbye to her. But you know what, she lived on for 2 1/2 more years. What an incredible fighter. Though I know she must have experienced so much pain in that time, she also spent all of that time living intentionally, cherishing each moment deeply, and loving those close to her with all her might. And the same goes for those in her community. The last time I visited home about 2 months ago, I was told that Mrs. L probably wouldn't live beyond a month or two. Knowing that and then seeing her in my dad's church just shook my heart like no other. I wanted to weep the whole time that I saw her seated in a few rows ahead of me. I felt that power of love, that momentary understanding of the value of life, the acknowledgement that we have a set amount of time on this earth to truly love one another and we don't know how long that set amount of time is for each of us. Our freedom of not knowing when we will die helps us not live a life of fear, fear of the end. We can simply trust, yes, one day I will die. But I am alive now, so I will choose to do something good, something new, something worthwhile while I am here.
I went up to Mrs. L after that church 2 months ago and I hugged her as tight as I could without hurting her, and I held on and I told her all the ways in which I admire her, the special memories I have of her, and the ways in which I know she has effected our community with light and love. She looked at me with such a peaceful kind smile and said thank you and that she sincerely loves me to. I think she and I both knew that this would be the last time we would ever see each other. And I admire her SO much for her grace and strength in that moment because I know she probably had to go through that moment with so many other people that are much closer to her.
Cancer in itself is not a blessing. But it is such an incredibly moving thing to know that in the time that she knew she would die soon, she lived with such grace and new strength of self. In knowing that she would pass soon, her community and family were able to give to her and love her in a way that felt deeper than an everyday love. Cancer is not a blessing, and death is not entirely joyfilled. It is painful, it is hard. But I am so deeply grateful that Mrs. L was able to live to an even deeper and amazingly full level of living in the past few years after learning she had cancer. I am thankful that I and all of her community had the time to both grasp her greatness while she was still alive, cherish her while she was still alive, come to terms with death and dying, and tell her how much we love her when she could still see us and hear us.
It is such a different experience of passing than the experiences I have had with friends dying in accidents. Selfishly, I wish I could have told my friends who have died over the years how much I love them, respect them, and appreciate them the way that I was able to when I said goodbye to Mrs. L. Some people believe in heaven, some people believe in ghosts, some people believe we simply turn to dust. You know, I don't know what happens. But I hope with all my heart that while those I have loved were alive, I hope they got a glimmer of the love I know they deserve. And I hope that their rest is peaceful and that they sleep sweetly.
Mrs. L, I selfishly am so grateful I got to tell you with teary eyes that I love you like family. I'm thankful I got to hug you and say my last goodbye to you set in a scene where we first met when I was a little girl. I am thankful you no longer have to experience any pain. And I am thankful that your family was able to cherish you in ways they would have never imagined just 3 years ago. You were a beautiful woman. A woman I admire deeply. The world needed you for every moment that you were here. And as cliche as it sounds, your effect on your community will keep you alive in how we now choose to live and love, with depth, strength, honesty, and compassion.
Life and death keeps things in perspective. I have to pay my parking tickets. I may not be able to take my metalsmithing class. I may have to wait on some business and personal dreams. But at least I appreciated and loved Mrs. L, at least I got to give her a hug and told her I love her. My woes will pass, as will my life someday. But I just hope I can learn to live even remotely as close to how Mrs. L. lived within the past few years, sometime in my future. Lord just give me time, and all will work itself out. I will rest when it is time, and I will live fully until then. It will be well with my soul.